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September 21, 2015

Trigger Warning

trigger warnings by Nishant Choks

trigger warning

Trigger warnings are disclaimers that content contains strong writing or images which could unsettle those with mental health difficulties. Angus Johnston, a history professor at the City University of New York, said that trigger warnings can be a part of ‘sound pedagogy,’ noting that students encountering potentially triggering material are ‘coming to it as whole people with a wide range of experiences, and that the journey we’re going on together may at times be painful. It’s not coddling them to acknowledge that. In fact, it’s just the opposite.’

However, students at UC Santa Barbara passed a resolution in support of mandatory trigger warnings for classes that could contain potentially upsetting material. Professors would be required to alert students of such material and allow them to skip classes that could make them feel uncomfortable.

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June 6, 2014

Hormonal Sentience

the intelligent plant

Hormonal [hawr-moh-nlsentience [sen-shuhns], first described by nanotechnology researcher Robert A. Freitas Jr., describes the information processing rate in plants, which are mostly based on hormones instead of neurons like in all major animals (except sponges). Plants can to some degree communicate with each other and there are even examples of one-way-communication with animals.

Acacia trees produce tannin to defend themselves when they are grazed upon by animals. The airborne scent of the tannin is picked up by other acacia trees, which then start to produce it themselves to ward off nearby grazers. When attacked by caterpillars, some plants can release chemical signals to attract parasitic wasps that attack the caterpillars.

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May 21, 2014

Circular Reporting


Echo Chamber by colin raney

In source criticism, circular reporting or false confirmation is a situation where a piece of information appears to come from multiple independent sources, but in fact is coming from only one source. In most cases, the problem happens mistakenly through sloppy intelligence gathering practices, but in a few cases, the situation is intentionally caused by the original source. This problem occurs in variety of fields, including intelligence gathering, journalism, and scholarly research. It is of particular concern in military intelligence because the original source has a higher likelihood of wanting to pass on misinformation, and because the chain of reporting is more liable to being obscured.

Wikipedia is sometimes criticized for being used as a source of circular reporting, and thus advises all researchers and journalists to be wary of using it as a direct source, and to instead focus on verifiable information found in an article’s cited references. In 2008 an American student edited wikipedia in jest, writing that the coati (a small mammal in the raccoon family) was ‘also known as….the Brazilian aardvark,’ resulting in many subsequently citing and using that unsubstantiated nickname as part of the general consensus, including an article in ‘The Independent.’

November 10, 2013



Jiro [jee-roh] Ono is an 85-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 3 Michelin star sushi restaurant in Tokyo. He was the subject of a 2011 documentary, ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi.’ The film also profiles Jiro’s two sons, both of whom are also sushi chefs.

The younger son, Takashi, left Sukiyabashi Jiro to open a mirror image of his father’s restaurant in Roppongi Hills. The 50-year-old elder son, Yoshikazu, obligated to succeed his father, still works for Jiro and is faced with the prospect of one day taking over the flagship restaurant.

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June 10, 2013

Celebrity Centres

Celebrity Centre by kirsten ulve

Celebrity Centres are Church of Scientology facilities that are open to the public but serve mostly artists and celebrities and other ‘professionals, leaders and promising new-comers in the fields of the arts, sports, management and government,’ as ‘those are the people who are sculpting the present into the future.’ The Celebrity Centre International was established in Hollywood, California, in 1969 by Yvonne Gillham, a Sea Org member who worked with L. Ron Hubbard. Since then, other centres have been established in New York, London, Paris and a number of other cities across the world.

The Church often quotes L. Ron Hubbard saying that, ‘A culture is only as great as its dreams and its dreams are dreamed by artists,’ citing this as the reason that Celebrity Centres were established — to create a good environment for ‘artists.’ Critics of Scientology point to Hubbard’s launch of ‘Project Celebrity’ in 1955 to recruit celebrities into the church, and that the centres were established as an extension of this initial purpose. The church denies the existence of policy to actively recruit high-ranking celebrities.

January 8, 2013

Decline Effect

decline effect by laurent cilluffo

The decline effect may occur when scientific claims receive decreasing support over time. The term was first described by parapsychologist Joseph Banks Rhine in the 1930s to describe the disappearing of extrasensory perception (ESP) of psychic experiments conducted by Rhine over the course of study or time. The term was once again used in a 2010 article by Jonah Lehrer published in ‘The New Yorker.’

In his article, Lehrer gives several examples where the decline effect is allegedly showing. In the first example, the development of second generation anti-psychotic drugs, reveals that the first tests had demonstrated a dramatic decrease in the subjects’ psychiatric symptoms. However, after repeating tests this effect declined and in the end it was not possible to document that these drugs had any better effect than the first generation anti-psychotics.

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March 17, 2012

Rose Mary Woods

the end of loyalty

Rose Mary Woods (1917 – 2005) was Richard Nixon’s secretary from his days in the Congress in 1951, through his Vice Presidency, Presidency, and until the end of his political career. Before H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman became the operators of Nixon’s presidential campaign, Woods was Nixon’s gatekeeper. Rose Mary was born in northeastern Ohio, part of blue-collar America and as most such households were then, her family was strongly Democratic. Following graduation from McKinley High School, she went to work for Royal China Inc., the city’s largest employer. Her fiance died during WWII; to escape the memories of her hometown she moved to Washington, D.C. in 1943, working in a variety of federal offices until she met Nixon while she was a secretary to the Select House Committee on Foreign Aid.

Impressed by his neatness and efficiency, she accepted his job offer in 1951. She developed a very close relationship with the entire Nixon family, especially First Lady Pat Nixon. Fiercely loyal to Nixon, Woods claimed responsibility in a 1974 grand jury testimony for inadvertently erasing up to five minutes of the 181⁄2 minute gap in a June 20, 1972 audio tape. Her demonstration of how this might have occurred — which depended upon her stretching to simultaneously press controls several feet apart (what the press dubbed the ‘Rose Mary Stretch’) — was met with skepticism from those who believed the erasures, from whatever source, to be deliberate. The contents of the gap remain a mystery.