August 30, 2014


Wim Hof

A superhuman is a person with extraordinary and unusual capabilities enabling feats beyond anything a layperson could conceivably achieve, even through extensive training. Superhuman can mean an improved human, for example, by genetic modification, cybernetic implants, nanotechnology, or natural evolution. Occasionally, it could mean an otherwise ‘normal’ human with purported super-abilities, such as psychic/psionic powers, levitation or flight, herculean strength, or unique proficiency at some task.

Superhuman can also mean something that is not human, but considered to be ‘superior’ to humans in some ways. This might include a robot that easily passed the Turing test (an indicator of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior) that possessed greater than human strength, which is already common in robots today. A very intelligent or strong alien could be considered superhuman. In its most basic sense it means anything beyond (typical) human capabilities, e.g. a tiger may be described as having ‘superhuman strength.’ Continue reading

August 29, 2014

The True Believer

eric hoffer

The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements is a 1951 social psychology book by American moral philosopher Eric Hoffer that discusses the psychological causes of fanaticism. The book analyzes and attempts to explain the motives of the various types of personalities that give rise to mass movements; why and how mass movements start, progress and end; and the similarities between them, whether religious, political, radical or reactionary.

Hoffer argues that even when their stated goals or values differ mass movements are interchangeable, that adherents will often flip from one movement to another, and that the motivations for mass movements are interchangeable. Thus, religious, nationalist, and social movements, whether radical or reactionary, tend to attract the same type of followers, behave in the same way and use the same tactics and rhetorical tools. As examples, the book often refers to Communism, Fascism, National Socialism, Christianity, Protestantism, and Islam.

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August 27, 2014



The term artistamp (a portmanteau of the words ‘artist’ and ‘stamp’) or artist’s stamp refers to a postage stamp-like art form used to depict or commemorate any subject its creator chooses. Artistamps are a form of ‘Cinderella stamp’ (unofficial stamps, not valid for postage), but they differ from forgeries or bogus Illegal stamps in that typically the creator has no intent to defraud postal authorities or stamp collectors.

Artistamp creators often include their work on legitimate mail, alongside valid postage stamps, in order to decorate the envelope with their art. In many countries this practice is legal, provided the artistamp isn’t passed-off as or likely to be mistaken for a genuine postage stamp. When so combined (and sometimes, less strictly speaking, even when not so) the artistamp may be considered part of the ‘mail art’ genre (a populist artistic movement centered around sending small scale works through the postal service, initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s and 60s). Continue reading

August 26, 2014

The Congress


Futurological Congress

The Congress is a 2013 French-Israeli live-action/animation science fiction drama film written and directed by Ari Folman. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Independent film distributor Drafthouse Films announced, along with Films We Like In Toronto, their co-acquisition of the North American rights to the film and a US theatrical and VOD/digital release planned for 2014.

Robin Wright plays an aging actress with a reputation for being fickle and unreliable, so much so that nobody is willing to offer her roles anymore. She agrees to sell the film rights to her digital image to Miramount Studios (a portmanteau of Miramax and Paramount) in exchange for a hefty sum and the promise to never act again. After her body is digitally scanned, the studio will be able to make films starring her using only computer-generated characters. Continue reading

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August 23, 2014

Ten Percent Brain Myth


The 10% of brain myth is the widely perpetuated urban legend that the average human can only make use of 10% (or some other small percentage) of their brain. It has been misattributed to many people, including Albert Einstein. By association, it is suggested that a person may harness this unused potential and increase intelligence by spiritual, chemical, or technological means.

Though factors of intelligence can increase with training, the popular notion that large parts of the brain remain unused, and could subsequently be ‘activated,’ rests more in popular folklore than scientific theory. Though mysteries regarding brain function remain—e.g. memory, consciousness—the physiology of brain mapping suggests that all areas of the brain have a function.

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August 22, 2014

Home Sign


Home sign (or kitchen sign) is a gestural communication system developed by deaf children who lack input from a language model in the family, such as those with hearing parents who are isolated from a sign language community.

While not developing into a complete language (as linguists understand the term), home sign systems show some of the same characteristics of sign and oral languages, and are quite distinguishable from the gestures that accompany speech. Words and simple sentences are formed, often in similar patterns despite different home sign systems being developed in isolation from each other. Comparisons can be made between home sign and pidgins (a simplified language that develops between two or more groups that do not have a common tongue). Continue reading

August 21, 2014

Human Universals

blank slate

Human Universals‘ is a 1991 nonfiction book by Donald Brown, an American professor of anthropology (emeritus) at UC, Santa Barbara. Brown says human universals, ‘comprise those features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exception.’

Universals include: age-grading, athletic sports, bodily adornment, calendar, cleanliness training, community organization, cooking, cooperative labor, cosmology, courtship, dancing, decorative art, divination, division of labor, dream interpretation, education, eschatology, ethics, ethno-botany, etiquette, faith healing, family feasting, fire-making, folklore, food taboos, funeral rites, games, gestures, gift-giving, government, greetings, hair styles, hospitality, housing, hygiene, incest taboos, inheritance rules, joking, kin groups, kinship nomenclature, language, law, luck superstitions, magic, marriage, mealtimes, medicine, obstetrics, penal sanctions, personal names, population policy, postnatal care, pregnancy usages, property rights, propitiation of supernatural beings, puberty customs, religious ritual, residence rules, sexual restrictions, soul concepts, status differentiation, surgery, tool-making, trade, visiting, weather control, weaving.

August 20, 2014


dancing cockatoo

Snowball (hatched c. 1996) is a male Eleonora Cockatoo, noted as being the first non-human animal conclusively demonstrated to be capable of beat induction— perceiving music and synchronizing body movements to the beat (i.e., dancing).

Snowball’s abilities first became apparent after being acquired from a bird show at the age of six by his previous owner. He was observed bobbing his head in time to the Backstreet Boys song, ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).’ The owner and his children encouraged this behavior and observed him developing rhythmic foot-lifting gestures, perhaps in imitation of his human companions’ arm-lifting gestures. Continue reading

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August 20, 2014

Biomusicological Entrainment


Entrainment [en-treyn-muhnt] in the biomusicological [bahy-oh-myoo-zi-kol-loj-i-kuhl] sense refers to the synchronization of organisms to an external rhythm, usually produced by other organisms with whom they interact socially. Examples include firefly flashing, mosquito wing clapping, as well as human music and dance such as foot tapping.

Beat induction is the process in which a regular isochronous pulse is activated while one listens to music (i.e. the beat to which one would tap one’s foot). It was thought that the cognitive mechanism that allows us to infer a beat from a sound pattern, and to synchronize or dance to it, was uniquely human. No other primate can dance or collaboratively clap to the beat of the music. Humans know when to start, when to stop, when to speed up or to slow down, in synchronizing with their fellow dancers or musicians. Although apes do not appear to display beat induction, some parrots do. The most famous example, Snowball was shown to display genuine dance, including changing his movements to a change in tempo in a 2009 study. Continue reading

August 20, 2014


music for monkeys by Himi Kozue

Zoomusicology [zoh-uh-myoo-zi-kol-uh-jee] is a field of musicology and zoology or more specifically, zoosemiotics (animal communication). It is the study of the music of non-human animals, or rather the musical aspects of sound or communication produced and received by animals, and is related to ethnomusicology (the study of human music). Italian musicologist and semiotician Dario Martinelli describes the subject of as the ‘aesthetic use of sound communication among animals.’

Musicologist Marcello Sorce Keller attributes musical qualities to animal sounds, specifically whales’ and birds’ songs, by stating that regional variations can be found that resemble cultural traits in human music. He advocates for a combined study of zoomusicology and ethnomusicology with the remark that he ‘would like to suggest that musical scholarship excluding non-human animals cannot ultimately describe ‘how musical is man.” Continue reading

August 19, 2014


Notes on the Synthesis of Form

Cartesian transformations of crabs by DW Thompson

In evolutionary biology, carcinisation [kar-sin-i-say-shun] is a hypothesised process whereby a crustacean evolves into a crab-like form from a non-crab-like form. The term was introduced by 20th century English zoologist L. A. Borradaile, who described it as ‘one of the many attempts of Nature to evolve a crab.’ Many animals that are called crabs – such as hermit crabs, king crabs, porcelain crabs, horseshoe crabs, and crab lice – are not true crabs (infraorder Brachyura).

Carcinisation is believed to have occurred independently in at least five groups of decapod (ten-footed) crustaceans, most notably king crabs, which most scientists believe evolved from hermit crab ancestors. Most hermit crabs are asymmetrical, so that they fit well into spiral snail shells; the abdomens of king crabs, even though they do not use snail shells for shelter, are also asymmetrical. An exceptional form of carcinisation, termed ‘hypercarcinisation,’ is seen in the porcelain crab (Allopetrolisthes spinifrons). In addition to the shortened body form, it also developed sexual dimorphism that matches true crabs, where males have a reduced pleon (abdomen) compared to females. Porcelain crabs likely evolved from squat lobsters

August 18, 2014

Visiting Card

acquaintance card

Kaiser Wilhelm

A visiting card, also known as a calling card, is a small paper card with one’s name printed on it, and often bearing an artistic design. In 18th century Europe the footmen of aristocrats and royalty would deliver these first European visiting cards to the servants of their prospective hosts solemnly introducing the arrival of their owners.

Visiting cards became an indispensable tool of etiquette, with sophisticated rules governing their use. The essential convention was that one person would not expect to see another person in her own home (unless invited or introduced) without first leaving his visiting card for the person at her home. Upon leaving the card, he would not expect to be admitted at first, but might receive a card at his own home in response. This would serve as a signal that a personal visit and meeting at home would be welcome. On the other hand, if no card were forthcoming, or if a card were sent in an envelope, a personal visit was thereby discouraged. Continue reading

August 13, 2014


sex drugs and rock and roll by Berto Herrera

Hendiatris [hen-die-uh-tris] (from the Greek: ‘one through three’) is a figure of speech used for emphasis, in which three words are used to express one idea (e.g. ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ to capture the life of a rock star). It is an isocolon, a sentence composed of two or more parts (cola) perfectly equivalent in structure, length and rhythm (called a bicolon, tricolon, or tetracolon depending on whether they are two, three, or four parts).

A well-known example of tricolon is Julius Caesar’s ‘Veni, vidi, vici’ (‘I came; I saw; I conquered’), which is also a hendiatris and known in English as a ‘tripartite motto.’ If the units involved are not single words, and if they are not in any way synonyms but rather circumnavigate the one idea expressed, the figure may be described more correctly, precisely, and succinctly as a ‘triad.’ Continue reading

August 11, 2014

Edible Bird’s Nest

birds nest soup

Edible bird’s nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans, with an average nest selling for $2,500 per kilo for end-consumers in Asia. The nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as bird’s nest soup. Legend has it that shipwrecked sailors scavenging for food cleaned and cooked the nests and found the resulting stew so invigorating they were able to sail home to inform the emperor of their new discovery.

The Chinese name for edible bird’s nest, ‘yàn wō,’ translates literally as ‘swiftlet nest’ (swiftlets, common to asia, are superficially similar to swallows and known for building nests of solidified saliva). The most famous use for the nests is bird’s nest soup, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. When dissolved in water, the swiftlet nests have a gelatinous texture used for soup or sweet tong sui (a Cantonese custard). Continue reading

August 7, 2014

Right To Be Forgotten


Memory Hole

The right to be forgotten is a nascent legal concept arising from the need to ‘determine the development of [one's] life in an autonomous way, without being perpetually or periodically stigmatized as a consequence of a specific action performed in the past.’ France law began recognizing this new right in 2010. Critics claim the laws are vague, unenforceable, and potentially a threat to open access to information, which is an existing legal right in many countries. There are also concerns about its interaction with the right to privacy and whether it would decrease the quality of the Internet through censorship and a rewriting of history.

Many nations have very strong domestic freedom of speech laws, which would be challenging to reconcile with the right to be forgotten. Some academics see that only a limited form of the right to be forgotten would be reconcilable with US constitutional law; the right of an individual to delete data that he or she has personally submitted. In this limited form, individuals could not have material removed that has been uploaded by others, as demanding the removal of information could constitute censorship and a reduction in the freedom of expression. Continue reading


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