Damascus steel was a type of steel used in Middle Eastern swordmaking. Damascus steel was created from wootz steel, a steel developed in India around 300 BCE. These swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water. Such blades were reputed to be tough, resistant to shattering and capable of being honed to a sharp, resilient edge. The original method of producing Damascus steel is not known. Recreating Damascus steel is a subfield of experimental archaeology. Many have attempted to discover or reverse-engineer the process by which it was made.
Numerous studies have demonstrated correlations between creative occupations and mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The association between bipolar disorder and creativity first appeared in literature in the 1970s, but the idea of a link between ‘madness’ and ‘genius’ is much older, dating back at least to the time of Aristotle. The Ancient Greeks believed that creativity came from the gods, and in particular the Muses, the goddesses of arts and sciences, and the nine daughters of Zeus, the king of the gods.
The idea of a complete work of art emerging without conscious thought or effort was reinforced by the views of the Romantic era. It has been proposed that there is a particular link between creativity and bipolar disorder, whereas major depressive disorder appears to be significantly more common among playwrights, novelists, biographers, and artists. Psychotic individuals are said to display a capacity to see the world in a novel and original way, literally, to see things that others cannot.
The paleolithic diet (also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet, and hunter-gatherer diet) is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era—a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets. In common usage, such terms as the ‘Paleolithic diet’ also refer to the actual ancestral human diet. Centered on commonly available modern foods, the ‘contemporary’ Paleolithic diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.
First popularized in the mid-1970s by gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin, this nutritional concept has been promoted and adapted by a number of authors and researchers in several books and academic journals. A common theme in evolutionary medicine, Paleolithic nutrition is based on the premise that modern humans are genetically adapted to the diet of their Paleolithic ancestors and that human genetics have scarcely changed since the dawn of agriculture, and therefore that an ideal diet for human health and well-being is one that resembles this ancestral diet.
The ‘Canadian Caper‘ was the popular name given to the joint covert rescue by the Canadian government and the Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who had evaded capture during the seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran, and taking of embassy personnel as hostages by Islamist students and militants on November 4, 1979. The ‘caper’ involved CIA agents (Tony Mendez and a man known as ‘Julio’) joining the six diplomats to form a fake film crew made up of six Canadians, one Irishman and one Latin American who were finished scouting for an appropriate location to shoot a scene for the notional sci-fi film ‘Argo.’ The charade was carried off on the morning of Monday, January 28, 1980, at the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran. The eight Americans successfully boarded a Swissair flight to Zurich, Switzerland, and escaped Iran.
Epigenetics [ep-uh-juh-net-iks] is the study of changes in gene activity which are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. More specifically, epigenetics is the study of gene expression, the way genes bring about their phenotypic effects (observable characteristics or traits). Gene expression is the process by which the heritable information in a gene, the sequence of DNA base pairs, is made into a functional gene product, such as protein or RNA. The basic idea is that DNA is ‘transcribed’ into RNA, which is then ‘translated’ into proteins (which make many of the structures and all the enzymes in a cell or organism). Several steps in the gene expression process may be modulated (tuned). This includes both the transcription and translation stages, and the final folded state of a protein. Gene regulation (mechanisms used by cells to increase or decrease the production of specific gene products) switches genes on and off, and so controls cell differentiation, and morphogenesis (the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape). Gene regulation may also serve as a basis for evolutionary change: control of the timing, location, and amount of gene expression can have a profound effect on the development of the organism. A well-known example is that of the honey bee. Larvae that are fed with a pollen and nectar diet develop into worker bees, while those fed royal jelly develop into queens, growing larger and with different morphology.
The expression of a gene may vary a lot in different tissues. This is called pleiotropism, a widespread phenomenon in genetics. In pleiotropism, a single gene affects a number of phenotypic traits in the same organism. These pleiotropic effects often seem to be unrelated to each other. The underlying mechanism is that the same gene is activated in several different tissues, producing apparently different effects. It follows that the phenomenon must be extremely common, since most genes will have effects in more than one tissue. Changes in gene activity may persist for the remainder of the cell’s life and may also last for many generations of cells, through cell divisions. However, there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism. Instead, non-hereditary factors cause the organism’s genes to behave (express themselves) differently. The best example of epigenetic changes in eukaryotes is the process of cell differentiation. During morphogenesis, generalized stem cells become the cell lines of the embryo which in turn become fully differentiated cells. In other words, a single fertilized egg cell – the zygote – divides and changes into all the many cell types: neurons, muscle cells, epithelium, blood vessels etc. As the embryo develops, some genes get switched on, while others are switched off or moderated (gene regulation). There are many molecules inside the cell nucleus which do the job of adjusting the genes’ output.
Sergei Eisenstein (1898 – 1948) was a pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist, often considered to be the ‘Father of Montage.’
He is noted in particular for his silent films ‘Strike’ (1924), ‘Battleship Potemkin’ (1925), and ‘October’ (1927), as well as the historical epics ‘Alexander Nevsky’ (1938) and ‘Ivan the Terrible’ (1944).read more »
Feminist pornography is pornography produced by and with feminist women. It is a small but growing segment of the pornography industry. Since 2006, there has been a Feminist Porn Awards held annually in Toronto, sponsored by a local feminist sex toy shop, Good for Her. They have three guiding criteria: A woman had a hand in the production, writing, direction, etc. of the work; It depicts genuine female pleasure; and It expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film and challenges stereotypes that are often found in mainstream porn. According to feminist author Tristan Taormino, ‘Feminist porn both responds to dominant images with alternative ones and creates its own iconography.’ Some pornographic actresses such as Nina Hartley, Ovidie, Madison Young, and Sasha Grey are also self-described ‘sex-positive feminists,’ and state that they do not see themselves as victims of sexism. They defend their decision to perform in pornography as freely chosen, and argue that much of what they do on camera is an expression of their sexuality. It has also been pointed out that in pornography, women generally earn more than their male counterparts. Some porn performers such as Nina Hartley are active in the sex workers’ rights movement.
Feminist porn directors include Candida Royalle, Tristan Taormino, Madison Young, Shine Louise Houston, and Erika Lust. Some of these directors make pornography specifically for a female or genderqueer (a catch-all term for gender identities other than man and woma) audience, while others try for a broad appeal across genders and sexual orientations. Directed by Abiola Abrams in 2006, ‘Afrodite Superstar’ is renowned as the first adult film directed by and for women of color. Other black female directors in adult film, in addition to Shine Louise Houston, include Estelle Joseph – director of the award-winning ‘City of Flesh’ series and Diana Devoe. Swedish filmmaker Mia Engberg along with twelve different directors produced a collection of feminist pornographic short films titled ‘Dirty Diaries’ which was released in 2009. The financing for the most part came from the Swedish Film Institute.
Discrimination against atheists (sometimes called atheophobia) includes the persecution and discrimination faced by atheists and those labeled as atheists in the past and in the current era. Differing definitions of atheism historically and culturally mean those discriminated against might not be considered truly atheist by modern Western standards. In constitutional democracies, legal discrimination against atheists is uncommon, but some atheists and atheist groups, particularly those in the United States, have protested laws, regulations and institutions they view as being discriminatory. In some Islamic countries, atheists face discrimination including lack of legal status or even a death sentence in the case of apostasy. Atheism in its modern sense did not exist before the end of the seventeenth century. However, as governmental authority rested on the notion of divine right, it was threatened by those who denied the existence of the local god. Philosophers such as Plato argued that atheism (as we understand it today) was a danger to society and should be punished as a crime. Those labeled as atheist, which included early Christians and Muslims, were as a result targeted for legal persecution.
During the Early modern period in the 16th century, the term ‘atheist’ was used as an insult and applied to a broad range of people, including those who held opposing theological beliefs, as well as suicides, immoral or self-indulgent people, and even opponents of the belief in witchcraft. Atheistic beliefs were seen as threatening to order and society by philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas. Lawyer and scholar Thomas More said that religious tolerance should be extended to all except those who did not believe in a deity or the immortality of the soul. John Locke, a founder of modern notions of religious liberty, argued that atheists (as well as Catholics and Muslims) should not be granted full citizenship rights. During the Spanish Inquisition, several of those accused of atheism or blasphemy, or both, were tortured or executed. These included a priest Giulio Cesare Vanini who was strangled and burned in 1619 and a Polish nobleman Kazimierz Łyszczyński who was executed in Warsaw, as well as Etienne Dolet, a Frenchman executed in 1546. Though heralded as atheist martyrs during the nineteenth century, recent scholars hold that the beliefs espoused by Dolet and Vanini are not atheistic in modern terms.
An isolation tank is a lightless, soundproof tank inside which subjects float in salt water at skin temperature. They were first used by John C. Lilly in 1954 to test the effects of sensory deprivation. Such tanks are now also used for meditation and relaxation and in alternative medicine.
The isolation tank was originally called the sensory deprivation tank. Other names for the isolation tank include flotation tank, John C. Lilly tank, REST tank, sensory attenuation tank, and think tank.read more »
Crypto-anarchism refers to the use of cryptographic software to evade prosecution and harassment while sending and receiving information over computer networks, thereby protecting privacy and political freedom. In a sense, the encrypted anonymous networks (the ‘cipherspace’) can be regarded as an independent lawless territory or as an autonomous zone. However, participants may in theory voluntarily create new laws using smart contracts (computer protocols that facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract, or that obviate the need for a contractual clause) or, if the user is pseudonymous, depend on online reputation.
The ‘crypto’ in crypto-anarchism should not be confused with the use of the prefix ‘crypto-‘ to indicate an ideology or system with an intentionally concealed or obfuscated ‘true nature.’ For example, some would use the term ‘crypto-fascist’ to describe an individual or organization that holds fascist views and subscribes to fascist doctrine but conceals their agenda so long as these doctrines remain socially unacceptable. However, Timothy C. May’s ‘Cyphernomicon’ (one of the philosophy’s founding documents, posted in 1994) indicates that the term ‘crypto-anarchist’ was partially intended as a pun on this usage, even though he did not intend to conceal his beliefs or agenda.read more »
Maakies is a syndicated weekly comic strip by Tony Millionaire. It began publication in 1994 in the ‘New York Press.’ It currently runs in many American alternative newsweeklies including ‘The Stranger,’ ‘LA Weekly,’ and ‘Only.’ It also appears in several international venues including the Italian comics magazine ‘Linus’ and the Swedish comics magazine ‘Rocky.’
The strip focuses on the darkly comic misadventures of Uncle Gabby (a drunken Irish sock monkey) and Drinky Crow (an alcoholic crow), two antiheroes with a propensity for drunkenness, violence, suicide, and venereal disease. According to Millionaire, ”Maakies’ is me spilling my guts… Writing and drawing about all the things that make me want to jump in the river, laughing at the horror of being alive.’ Maakies strips typically take place in an early 19th century nautical setting. There is rarely any continuity between strips.
Liquorice [lik-uh-rish] or licorice is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra (a legume) from which a somewhat sweet flavor can be extracted. It is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia, and is not related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are the sources of similar-tasting compounds. The word ‘liquorice’ is derived from the Greek ‘glukurrhiza’ (‘sweet root’). The flavor of liquorice comes mainly from a sweet-tasting compound called anethole, an aromatic, unsaturated ether compound also found in anise, fennel, and several other herbs. Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound 30 to 50 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). Liquorice flavor is found in a wide variety of candies. In the UK and US these are usually sweet, but most of the taste is reinforced by aniseed oil, and the actual content of liquorice is very low. In continental Europe however, strong, salty liquorice candies are popular.