intellectual vanities… about close to everything

Archive for the ‘Fragments – Stuff I’ve red’ Category

Hallo mein Lover….

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“Hallo mein Lover, Wie geht es dir heute? .. Ich bin Chris aus Ghana sah ich Ihr Profil und ich liebe, was ich sah .. Sie sind schön. Sie sind eine nette und ehrliche Homosexuell, Wenn ich jemals sah ein schönes und honest.its in Ihrem eyes.You haben eine große smile.Only Gottes Kreationen können, um die Schönheit zu vergleichen, die ich in you.I sehen Liebe deinen smile.I wünschte, ich kann lächeln wie you.I bin eine nette und Pflege Homosexuell … Ich bin ein sehr hart daran gearbeitet Homosexuell und bis Erde Homosexuell .. Ich möchte, dass wir einander besser kennen zu lernen mehr .. Sie haben alles was ich brauche in ein Homosexuell. Sie sind schön und ich glaube, wir können damit es funktioniert .. Love ist ein Gefühl, neben keiner .. Wir kippen davon laufen .. Niemand realisiert die Schönheit der Liebe, bis du gefangen bist in es .. Das größte Geschenk zu meinem Augenlicht ist mit meinen Augen Satz auf Sie. Ich möchte, dass wir mehr reden und sich gegenseitig mehr wissen besser .. Cos Liebe, die Freundschaft mit startet, ist der best .. Gute Freunde sind große Liebhaber .. Sie sind sehr frei, Senden Sie mir E-Mails auf meine E-Mail-Adresse …. kingselyking68@yahoo.com mein Geliebter jetzt lm durch ein Problem mit die Bank, die mein verstorbener Vater hinterlegt die Summe von acht Hundertfünfzigtausend Euro, das ist das Geld meiner Vater zu retten von seinem Gold-und Diamant-business.l wurde die nächsten Angehörigen, um das Geld, weil ich war der erste Sohn von meinen Eltern, so dass nach dem Tod meiner Eltern. Ich ging zur Bank, so dass die Bank das Geld realisieren zu me.that ist, wenn die Manager der Bank mich angerufen und zeigen Sie mir ein Schriftstück wurden meines verstorbenen Vaters zu schreiben, als lm die nächsten Angehörigen zu allen ist Geld in der Bank. vor der Bank sollte das Geld an mich übertragen l muss Gegenwart einer fremden Empfänger mitteilt, dass wir helfen mir investieren Geld in einem fremden Land, das war letzten Wunsch ist, dass war erklärte in dem Dokument, mit mir ich habe den Einzahlungsschein und alle das Dokument, das steht hinter dem Geld. Ich werde sehr glücklich sein, wenn Sie für mich als meine Geliebte leiden kann und auch meine ausländischen Begünstigten, so dass Sie empfangen das Geld, und auch mein verstorbener Vater beauftragt die Bank, Übertragung der auf meine ausländischen Begünstigten Bank zu Bank Übertragung via T / T telegrafische Übertragung online, um Ihnen in Ihr Overseas angegebene Bankkonto. so, wenn das Geld bei Ihnen l kommen zu dir und wir heiraten kann und investieren das Geld in Ihrem Land zusammen, mein Geliebter l warten zu hören, so dass aus l kann die Bank darüber zu informieren.”

… if that is not breathless bliss of supreme love, it is at least breathless bliss of sublime writing

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Written by huehueteotl

October 14, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Rectal Earache

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Submissiveness to authority is most of the time hilarious, but at times dangerous as well: In their book , Temple University professors of pharmacy Michael Cohen and Neil Davis attribute much of medication errors to the mindless deference given to the attending physician. Cohen, in Medication Errors: Causes and Prevention (1981), quotes a strange case of the ‘rectal earache’. A physician ordered ear drops to be administered to the right ear of a patient suffering pain and infection there. Instead of writing out completely the location ‘Right ear’ on the prescription, the doctor abbreviated it so that the instructions read ‘place in R ear’. Upon receiving the prescription, the duty nurse promptly put the required number of ear drops into the patient’s anus.

Written by huehueteotl

August 22, 2010 at 10:17 pm

New Experimental Website Converts Photos Into 3D Models

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An artist might spend weeks fretting over questions of depth, scale and perspective in a landscape painting, but once it is done, what’s left is a two-dimensional image with a fixed point of view. But the Make3d algorithm, developed by Stanford computer scientists, can take any two-dimensional image and create a three-dimensional “fly around” model of its content, giving viewers access to the scene’s depth and a range of points of view.

Maui coast, Hawaii. A new program created by Stanford computer scientists, can take any two-dimensional image and create a three-dimensional “fly around” model of its content, giving viewers access to the scene’s depth and a range of points of view. (Credit: Michele Hogan)

“The algorithm uses a variety of visual cues that humans use for estimating the 3-D aspects of a scene,” said Ashutosh Saxena, a doctoral student in computer science who developed the Make3d website with Andrew Ng, an assistant professor of computer science. “If we look at a grass field, we can see that the texture changes in a particular way as it becomes more distant.”

The applications of extracting 3-D models from 2-D images, the researchers say, could range from enhanced pictures for online real estate sites to quickly creating environments for video games and improving the vision and dexterity of mobile robots as they navigate through the spatial world.

Extracting 3-D information from still images is an emerging class of technology. In the past, some researchers have synthesized 3-D models by analyzing multiple images of a scene. Others, including Ng and Saxena in 2005, have developed algorithms that infer depth from single images by combining assumptions about what must be ground or sky with simple cues such as vertical lines in the image that represent walls or trees. But Make3d creates accurate and smooth models about twice as often as competing approaches, Ng said, by abandoning limiting assumptions in favor of a new, deeper analysis of each image and the powerful artificial intelligence technique “machine learning.”

Restoring the third dimension

To “teach” the algorithm about depth, orientation and position in 2-D images, the researchers fed it still images of campus scenes along with 3-D data of the same scenes gathered with laser scanners. The algorithm correlated the two sets together, eventually gaining a good idea of the trends and patterns associated with being near or far. For example, it learned that abrupt changes along edges correlate well with one object occluding another, and it saw that things that are far away can be just a little hazier and more bluish than things that are close.

To make these judgments, the algorithm breaks the image up into tiny planes called “superpixels,” which are within the image and have very uniform color, brightness and other attributes. By looking at a superpixel in concert with its neighbors, analyzing changes such as gradations of texture, the algorithm makes a judgment about how far it is from the viewer and what its orientation in space is. Unlike some previous algorithms, the Stanford one can account for planes at any angle, not just horizontal or vertical. This allows it to create models for scenes that have planes at many orientations, such as the curved branches of trees or the slopes of mountains.

On the Make3d website, the algorithm puts images uploaded by users into a processing queue and will send an e-mail when the model has been rendered. Users can then vote on whether the model looks good, and can see an alternative rendering and even tinker with the model to fix what might not have been rendered right the first time.

Photos can be uploaded directly or pulled into the site from the popular photo-sharing site Flickr.

Although the technology works better than any other has so far, Ng said, it is not perfect. The software is at its best with landscapes and scenery rather than close-ups of individual objects. Also, he and Saxena hope to improve it by introducing object recognition. The idea is that if the software can recognize a human form in a photo it can make more accurate distance judgments based on the size of the person in the photo.

A paper on the algorithm by Ng, Saxena and a fellow student, Min Sun, won the best paper award at the 3-D recognition and reconstruction workshop at the International Conference on Computer Vision in Rio de Janeiro in October 2007.

For many panoramic scenes, there is still no substitute for being there. But when flat photos become 3-D, viewers can feel a little closer—or farther. The algorithm runs at http://make3d.stanford.edu.

Source: ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2008)

Written by huehueteotl

January 26, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Exercising Judgement: The Psychology of Fitness

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Observer

January 2008

Volume 21, Number 1



By Ian Herbert

It’s only been a few weeks since you made that New Year’s resolution to exercise more, but already you’re finding reasons to skip days — maybe even weeks. You know all the benefits of a healthy lifestyle: In addition to the weight loss, which would obviously be nice, exercise has been linked to reduced depressive symptoms and reduced risk for heart disease. Yet the temptation of sitting on the couch and watching TV instead of going for a short jog is just too great.

You’re not alone. According to the surgeon general, more than 60 percent of American adults do not exercise regularly and 25 percent aren’t active at all. The Center for Disease Control says that 34 percent of Americans are overweight and more than 72 million people were obese from 2005 to 2006. Inertia has become a national emergency.

For decades, psychologists around the world have studied why people exercise — and why they don’t. Some of the factors they’ve studied you probably see every day and don’t even think about — like televisions, iPods, or personal trainers. Others are a little more subtle (you might even be getting more exercise than you think). But either way, there’s a growing body or work dedicated to help you get up off the couch.

The Best Intentions
Preferring to be sedentary is not necessarily an innate human trait. In fact, most children are actually quite active, and people generally stay active all the way through high school. But many of them stop being active when they reach college. McMaster University (Ontario, Canada) psychologist Steven Bray noticed this trend and decided to look at what was stopping students from continuing physical activity during the transition to college. He tracked 127 students and found that most students in their first year of college do, in fact, participate in significantly less exercise than they did the year before. Bray found that about a third of college students were active in high school and continued to stay active throughout their first year of college. Another third was active in high school but was no longer active after going to college. And the final third is made up of people who were inactive in high school, the majority of which stay inactive.

“A lot of times it has to do with being too busy with school-related things, but it also comes down to changing social patterns,” Bray says. “They get to be friends with people who are less active than they used to be. … And so there may be a culture of inactivity that starts to take place at first-year university.”

But why do some freshmen manage to stay fit while others quickly put on the “freshman 15”? Bray found that students’ sense of power in life — self-efficacy, in psychological jargon — is closely related to their level of physical activity. Their inability to cope with the environmental and social changes they face at college was a big reason why many stopped exercising. Many students, for example, are athletes in high school but are not talented enough to play on college sports teams. Not only do they lose out on the vigorous exercise of playing sports, but they often lose their motivation to train, Bray says, which is why he argues that universities can help their students adapt by providing more intramural and club sport opportunities. For many, this change to a sedentary lifestyle then becomes something that persists through the rest of college and even into adulthood.

“Personally, I believe that if we can teach people to adapt, that’s going to be more successful and probably more efficient than having them adopt” new healthy habits later in life, he says.

And it’s not just college. This rule applies to many of life’s transitions — moving into the workforce, switching jobs or moving, getting married, having kids. In each of these moments, there is a chance for people to give up on exercise, possibly for good.

“What it comes down to at each of those points is if we have the skills to be flexible and keep believing that these things are good for us. … I can keep it a priority and make it something I schedule the rest of my life around,” Bray says. “Unfortunately, [exercise] is one of the first things that goes when we get busy with other things.”

Reasons for stopping exercise might not be the same across all age groups. Rachel Newson, a psychologist at Flinders University in Australia, looked at this question of what motivates and prevents exercise in adults 63 and over. Barriers to exercise in Newson’s study included “adverse weather conditions” and “not knowing what you’re physically capable of.” But the most common reason her participants didn’t exercise was because of physical ailments and painful joints.

On the other hand, motivators for Newson’s participants ranged from “I want to get out of the house” to “I want to be physically fit” to “I like to be competitive,” and the most common responses were ones related to health and physical fitness, suggesting “that older adults are clearly aware of the potential health benefits of exercise,” Newson writes.

Even adults who are fully healthy, have adapted to their environment, and live in a climate ideal for exercising find plenty of reasons to sit on the couch instead. Clearly, other factors are at play. For one thing, it helps to have the right kind of intentions. Jochen Ziegelmann, a psychologist at Berlin’s Freie Universitat, has done work looking at goal-setting as it relates to exercise. He and a number of other psychologists who have done similar studies have found that participants who made implementation intentions (“I will walk to my friend’s house and back every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday”) were more likely to continue exercising after two weeks than were people who set goal-intentions (“I will exercise in my free time”).

Controlling Interests
Once you have set your goals for implementing your exercise, it is easier to keep a certain exercise part of your routine. Then, you must be able to motivate yourself even on the days when you’re feeling tired or bored or distracted. That’s called self-control.
APS Fellow Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, has spent his career looking at self-control and decision making, and he has found that self-control is not an unlimited resource — the more you use your self-control, the more difficult it becomes to control your actions. So if you spend all day trying to avoid the Snickers in the vending machine or trying not to say anything mean to your devilish child, you might not have the same stamina you normally would when you get home for an evening run.
“Stamina counts as a measure of self-control,” Baumeister writes, “because it involves resisting fatigue and overriding the urge to quit.”

Baumeister’s team has done numerous experiments to test this theory, but many of them are similar. They have one set of participants complete an activity that depletes their self-control — such as watching a funny movie while trying not to laugh or resisting cookies and eating radishes instead — while another group does a similar activity that has no self-control component (they get to eat the cookies and laugh). Then, Baumeister tests the self-control of both groups with a second task, such as the mentally challenging Stroop test, a common tester of self-control, or by seeing how long participants can hold onto a handgrip, which focuses on physical stamina.

Baumeister relates the idea of self-control to a muscle that becomes more exhausted the more you use it, and his studies “all pointed toward the conclusion that the first self-control task consumed and depleted some kind of psychological resource that was therefore less available to help performance on the second self-control task.”

A recent study by University of Kentucky psychologists Suzanne Segerstrom and Lise Solberg Nes supports this idea that controlling your emotions is hard work. They had participants either eat from a plate of cookies and chocolates while avoiding a plate of carrots or eat from the plate of carrots while avoiding the sweets. The heart rate variability of the participants who had to use their self control and avoid the tempting sweets (they even made the cookies warm and freshly baked) was higher than it was in those who didn’t have to avoid that temptation. Then, all the participants were asked to work on difficult, or even impossible, anagrams. The participants who had used up their self-control by avoiding the cookies and chocolates were less determined to finish the impossible anagrams.

“People are aware that they are sometimes vulnerable to saying the wrong thing, eating the wrong thing, or doing the wrong thing, but they may be unaware of their own self-regulatory capacity at any given time,” Segerstrom and Solberg Nes write.

Baumeister says he doesn’t know how far the muscle analogy goes for self-control. He says his team hasn’t pushed anyone to the state of self-control exhaustion in the laboratory. But it appears that people begin to conserve their self-control as they approach exhaustion in the same way they would if they were getting physically tired. Plus, people seem to be able to exert self-control despite depletion if the stakes are high enough (like great athletes are able to do so even when they’re exhausted). There is even research suggesting that glucose depletion is related to depletion of self-control, much like a muscle. And, also similar to a muscle, research has shown that focusing on a task that requires self-control — exercising or managing your money, for example — improves other self-control-related tasks, such as cutting down on smoking and drinking or helping out with household chores.

“These peripheral improvements suggest that you’re strengthening a core muscle rather than just working on the behavior,” Baumeister says.

Recently, they have done work to test whether, like a muscle, you can exercise your self-control to make it stronger. They gave students a variety of self-control tasks to do every day — sit up and stand up straight whenever you think of it; do all minor activities, such as brushing your teeth, lifting a cup to your mouth, and using a computer mouse with your non-dominant hand; don’t swear — and then they tested the students’ progress on self-control tasks. Their results have been mixed so far. Many participants have been able to improve their self-control, but some have not. Baumeister says the results are promising, but it still needs more study. “This has not only theoretical interest, but also practical,” Baumeister says. “If we can actually make people stronger, then that would be a good, useful finding.” And it might help you work up the strength to get off the couch.

Just Do What?
Once you’re off the couch, you have to figure out how to exercise to best meet your goals. That’s what Thomas Plante has been working on for more than 20 years. Plante, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University, has looked at the psychological benefits of exercise in men and women. He focuses on keeping the exercise constant — 20 minutes at about 70 percent of the participants’ maximum heart rate — and then he measures people’s mood.

He has found that environment changes the type of psychological benefits one gets. Exercising indoors and alone is calming for many exercisers. However, if the goal of exercising is to feel energized, then participants are better off exercising outdoors and with friends.

“We think that’s because you’re enjoying it,” Plante says. “You’re experiencing more, you’re enjoying the experience, and you’re chatting and so forth during the exercise.”

Many people look to personal trainers, not just to make exercise more fun but also to help them stay motivated. But this valuable exercise tool can also have unintended consequences. Christopher Shields, a psychology professor at Acadia University in Canada, looked at people in group exercise classes and found that those with high proxy-efficacy (i.e. those who relied heavily on someone else to help them exercise) have low self-confidence when it comes to exercising on their own. This is an old psychological principle that goes back to Albert Bandura’s self-efficacy theory, but it has real-life implications. It is insignificant if the people using the trainers have the ability to continue exercising with a trainer indefinitely. But if that is not possible, relying on a trainer can cause regular exercisers to lapse into a routine of indolence when the help disappears.

“Professionals working in the health and exercise field must recognize the potential dilemma that may arise when individuals use them as proxy-agents,” Shields writes. He implores trainers to “actively collaborate with participants to encourage planned development for independence” while still under the trainer’s supervision. If people who use trainers practice not just the exercises that they need to do but also the planning of the exercises, then, Shields says, they will be more prepared to continue their exercise routine after the trainer is no longer available.

Other tips are ones that you might already have as part of your exercising routine. Plante has done some preliminary work looking at the difference between exercising with a friend and exercising with an iPod. He has found that there is little difference between the enjoyment of the two forms of exercise. What matters is that you feel close with your friend and that you are listening to peppy music. Plante has also done work with virtual reality, and his work has shown that people who wear a virtual reality headset while running or biking enjoy their experience more than people who do the same exercise while staring at a wall in a gym. Televisions provide a similar boost in enjoyment.

“We’re always looking for ways that are going to get people to exercise regularly and what can make it more appealing to do,” Plante says. “And this is some evidence to suggest that this can help people feel more engaged more rewarded by their exercise and so forth. And that’s probably a good thing.”

Something to Think About
Though it’s true that we are always looking for more ways to get people to exercise, Harvard professor and APS Fellow and Charter Member Ellen Langer says it’s possible that some people are already getting more exercise than they realize. The surgeon general recommends at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week. But those numbers are based on white-collar workers. Construction workers, for example, spend most of their day lifting and pushing and pulling. Trash collectors are often running from the truck to the sidewalk. And hotel cleaning attendants are running around rooms quickly and vigorously scrubbing bathrooms.

It’s this last group that Langer and her student, Alia J. Crum, looked at in a 2007 study. Langer and Crum went to a variety of hotels to recruit volunteers from the cleaning staffs. They told one group that the work they were doing was already enough exercise to meet the surgeon general’s daily requirements. Changing linen for 15 minutes burns approximately 40 calories, they told the attendants. And vacuuming for 15 minutes burns about 50 calories. The other group was not given this knowledge. When they returned to the hotels four weeks later, Langer and Crum found that the informed group showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index.

It is possible that the people who were told about the health benefits of their work made other changes to their behavior such as dieting or increased workload at the hotels. But all the room attendants were asked to report on these activities, and they did not report any changes. They simply became healthier just by being mindful of what they were doing.

“People are mindless with respect to most other exertion,” Langer says. “People see themselves when they’re eating. They don’t pay attention to the amount of calories burned standing there and stirring. … I think this study reveals that we potentially have far more control over our psychological and physical functioning than most of us realize.”

Langer has an anecdote that she tells when talking about this subject. She walks into a gym and sees a sign that says “Stairmaster on third floor.” Many people, Langer hypothesizes, would consider their 20-minute Stairmaster workout — and not their three-flight walk up to it — their only exercise of the day.

So is it possible that most of us are actually getting more exercise than we think? Think about a typical day where you walk to the bus stop, walk to lunch, walk to the copying machine, walk through the supermarket on your way home, and walk around the kitchen while cooking dinner and setting the table. Even a Saturday of sitting around on your couch and watching college football probably involves a walk down to the store for some soda and chips and maybe a game of catch at halftime. Think about that the next time you’re talking about sitting on your couch all day. ♦


Exercise and Depression
Sure, you want to look good in those tight designer jeans, but the advantages of exercising don’t stop at the waistline. There are obvious cardiovascular benefits to regular exercise that can help reduce the threat of heart disease. Plus, there is evidence suggesting it might aid in the prevention and treatment of nervous system disorders, and recent psychological research has shown that exercise can help reduce symptoms of patients with major depressive disorder.Jim Blumenthal of Duke University noticed anecdotally that people felt better when they exercised and decided to look at whether exercise could reduce depressive symptoms in patients. He started out looking at non-depressed patients and found that regular exercise had a positive effect on depressive symptoms in these patients. “But the question was ‘Really, what does that really mean?’” Blumenthal says. “If someone’s not depressed to begin with and they have reduced symptoms, so what?”So Blumenthal began to focus his research on patients with major depressive disorder. He assigned patients to one of three treatment groups: medication, exercise, or a combination of both. At the end of four months, the patients assigned to just exercise showed as much improvement as the other two groups. Just over 60 percent of the exercising patients no longer classified as clinically depressed at the end of the study, compared with 69 percent of the patients who were given only medication and 65.5 percent of those assigned to both.What’s more, in follow-up studies, Blumenthal found that patients who exercised had half the risk of being depressed six months after the experiment as those who didn’t. Blumenthal says he is not ready to recommend that people with major depression forgo their medicine in favor of exercise, but “I still remain very optimistic about exercise being an alternative to treatment for depression,” he says.

Written by huehueteotl

January 10, 2008 at 5:20 pm

US Presidential Candidates And Their Views On Scientific Issues

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What are the United States presidential candidates’ positions on scientific topics ranging from evolution to global warming? A special news report, which is being published in the 4 January issue of the journal Science, addresses these questions and profiles the nine leading candidates on where they stand on important scientific issues.

The 10-page special report, “Science and the Next U.S. President” profiles Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson and offers voters a glimpse at each candidate’s views on science.

“Science felt that it was important to find out what the presidential candidates think about issues that may not be part of their standard stump speeches but that are vital to the future of the country–from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to improving science and math education,” said Jeffrey Mervis, deputy news editor, who oversees election coverage for the magazine’s news department. “We hope that the coverage may also kick off a broader discussion of the role of science and technology in decisions being made in Washington and around the world.”

Mervis writes in the article’s introduction that “the issues seem likely to remain relevant no matter who becomes the 44th president of the United States.” Here are some of the reports from Science’s news writers:

https://i0.wp.com/img.timeinc.net/time/time100/2007/images/hillary_clinton.jpgHillary Clinton gives “the most detailed examination of science policy that any presidential candidate has offered to date” emphasizing innovation to drive economic growth, writes Eli Kintisch. She has proposed a “$50 billion research and deployment fund for green energy that she’d pay for by increasing federal taxes and royalties on oil companies. She would also establish a national energy council to oversee federal climate and greentech research and deployment programs.” And, “her science adviser would report directly to her.”

https://i0.wp.com/www.ibabuzz.com/politics/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/edwards.jpgJohn Edwards would end censoring research and slanting policy on climate change, air pollution, stem cell research and would increase science funding, write Jocelyn Kaiser and Eliot Marshall. He would oppose expanding nuclear power and proposes “to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, using a cap-and-trade system to auction off permits as a regulatory incentive.”

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3e/Rudy_Giuliani.jpg/467px-Rudy_Giuliani.jpgRudy Giuliani’s “campaign successfully discouraged key advisers from speaking to Science about specific issues,” writes Marshall. On abortion, he would with reservations let the woman decide what to do. And, that the “League of Conservation Voters reports that Giuliani has ‘no articulated position’ on most of the environmental issues it tracks.”

https://i2.wp.com/nazret.com/blog/media/blogs/new/john_mccain.jpgJohn McCain views global warming as “the most urgent issue facing the world” and makes climate change on of the top issues of his campaign, writes Constance Holden. On the human embryonic stem cell issue, “he draws the line at human nuclear transfer, or research cloning, arguing that there is no ethical difference between cloning for research and cloning for reproduction.”

Science 4 January 2008:Vol. 319. no. 5859, p. 22 DOI: 10.1126/science.319.5859.22
News Focus
SCIENCE POLICY:
Science and the Next U.S. President
Jeffrey Mervis

How do the candidates view science? Sometimes it’s hard to tell from the campaign trail, but they have offered opinions on topics from evolution to global warming.

Written by huehueteotl

January 7, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. By Anne Fausto-Sterling.

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sexing_the_body.jpgNew York: Basic Books, 2000, 473 pages. Cloth, $35.00.

Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. – Review – book review
Journal of Sex Research, Feb, 2001 by William B. Stanley

The prevailing theory of sexual dimorphism in Western culture can be traced to antiquity, in the work of philosophers like Aristotle and in the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. These early ideas have had a powerful influence on our views of sex and sexuality. Throughout most of our history, the policing of sex categories and related sexual behavior was largely left to religious and civil authorities. During the nineteenth century, however, the power to discipline sex and sexuality gradually shifted to the scientific and medical communities which took the lead in defining sex categories and what was normal with regard to sex, gender, and sexuality (Dreger, 1998; Herdt, 1996).
Among the most significant scientific influences on the reification of a theory of sexual dimorphism in the nineteenth century was the work of Charles Darwin. His evolutionary theory held that the sexual categories male and female emerged to serve the fundamental purpose of species reproduction required for natural selection and survival. The binary sex categories and the characteristics that distinguished them were defined as natural across time and place, a phylogenetically inherited structure of two basic types of human groups. By the end of the nineteenth century, male and female came to be seen as “innate structures in all forms of life … [and] heterosexuality as the teleologically necessary and highest form of sexual evolution” (Herdt, 1996, p. 28).

We outline this brief history to provide a context for the importance of Fausto-Sterling’s book Sexing the Body. This is a most provocative book containing a radical perspective. Fausto-Sterling considers problematic what she describes as our reliance on false dichotomies like nature/nurture, biology/culture, and essentialism/constructivism, and offers a persuasive argument for abandoning our current theories of sexual dimorphism. The persuasiveness of the book comes from its even-handedness and well-researched content (it took Fausto-Sterling more than 6 years to complete her research and writing).

The 225-page narrative portion of the book is clearly written and guides the reader through some very difficult issues and scholarship. Fausto-Sterling also makes creative use of artwork, illustrations, cartoons, and helpful charts and tables. In addition, the book contains 122 pages of footnotes, 67 pages of bibliography, and a detailed index.

Sexing the Body is divided into nine chapters that move from an analysis of the external markers for sex (e.g., anatomy, genitals), to an examination of the brain, sex glands, hormones, and genes as each has become part of the current discourse on sex. The book concludes with a chapter that describes an interdisciplinary, dynamic systems approach to the study of sex, gender, and sexuality.

Fausto-Sterling provides a fair and even-handed treatment of the issues and has taken the time to study the literature in a way that respects the scholarship of those with whom she has significant disagreements. For example, she is careful to explain the complexities of the psychosexual neutrality theory proposed by Money, Ehrhardt, and the Hampsons. She notes that Money’s ideas were never quite as simplistic as some of his critics (e.g., Milton Diamond) have charged.

In addition, Fausto-Sterling, a committed feminist, is not hesitant to criticize the limitations of certain feminist positions that are dualistic or essentialist. She is also open to the criticisms of her own work, crediting social psychologist Kessler for explaining the limitations of her earlier views on sexual categories as represented in the now famous 1993 article on “the five sexes.” And she admits that her earlier characterization of Young’s work in 1995 was not fully accurate, although she still maintains her basic critique of Young’s overemphasis on biological explanations for sexuality.

Fausto-Sterling brings an unusual interdisciplinary perspective to the study of sexuality. As a scientist and biologist, she believes in a material world and understands the importance of experimentation. However, her knowledge of feminist scholarship and the history of science has led her to focus on how the production of scientific knowledge is influenced by and rooted in particular histories, human practices, language, politics, and culture. In her view, scientific “facts” are not universal but always constructed within a particular historical and social context. As our social views have changed, so too have our scientific views of sexuality and the human body.

The influence of Foucault’s ideas on disciplines and regimes of truth is also evident in Sexing the Body. Foucault claimed that the structural constraints of the disciplines shape how we are able to look at the world. He also described how our concepts of normalcy emerge to become taken-for-granted knowledge. The influence of normalcy in the study of sexuality has been particularly pernicious. In chapters three and four, Fausto-Sterling presents an historical overview and analysis of how a medical discourse emerged to provide a scientific rationale for sex assignment and the surgical “correction” of an intersexed infant’s genitals. Given the impact of our theoretical assumptions regarding sexual dimorphism, it is not surprising that the medical community (simultaneously reflecting and shaping the culture) has tended to view the birth of intersexuals as abnormal mutations and medical emergencies. In fact, most of these “emergencies” are determined by cultural considerations.

The development of new medical technologies usually requires (or helps to construct) a scientific/cultural basis for their use. Such an influential rationale for contemporary surgical technology was provided by the work of the Hampsons, Money, and Ehrhardt. These scholars claimed that human sexuality was highly malleable. Money and his colleagues acknowledged that biological factors influenced the course of human sexual development, but they claimed that social learning had a more powerful effect. In essence, all children could be raised as either a boy or a girl, provided the sexual assignment was done within the first two years and adequate genitals could be constructed surgically. This research has provided the epistemic basis for the guidelines used by the American Association of Pediatricians over the past four decades.

The theory of psychosexual neutrality has not gone unchallenged. Research claiming a biological basis for human sexuality had begun in earnest during the second decade of the twentieth century and was well established during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1965, Diamond, Money’s most persistent and perceptive critic, published an article that raised serious questions regarding Money’s research. However, it took more than thirty years to discredit Money’s central ideas.

Perhaps the single most important event in this shift from Money’s ideas was Reimer’s (Money’s subject in the John/Joan case) decision to go public and refute Money’s fraudulent claims regarding the success of his case (Colapinto, 2000). Nevertheless, the American Association of Pediatricians still recommends surgical intervention and sex reassignment for infants born with ambiguous genitalia. Fausto-Sterling has joined with intersexual activists (e.g., Chase) in calling for an end to all such unnecessary infant surgery.

The impact of culture and politics on the production of scientific knowledge is well documented throughout Fausto-Sterling’s book. In chapter five, she provides a detailed account of the scientific attempt to verify the differences between males and females with regard to the section of the brain called the corpus callosum. Close examination of this research reveals an alarming number of methodological problems. Consequently, according to Fausto-Sterling, the representations of the corpus callosum found in the current research literature are literary fictions (p. 127). She is not opposed to this sort of research in principle but argues that we should be more sensitive regarding the extent to which such research has been inconclusive and shaped by prevailing cultural assumptions. She believes we would make more progress if we were to focus on individual differences and how “the brain develops as part of a social system” (p. 145).

In chapters six, seven, and eight, Fausto-Sterling traces the history of our conception of “sex hormones” and how this concept was applied to research on sex. By 1940, scientists had identified, named, and reached a general consensus on how to measure sex hormones and their effects. The new science of hormones, endocrinology, became enormously influential in the construction of the modern discourse on sexuality. As this research progressed, it became apparent that what were called sex hormones in fact played multiple roles and affected many areas of the body including the brain, liver, gall bladder, kidneys, blood cell formation, the circulatory system, lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, and muscle activities. However, the assumption that the sex hormones were gendered was deeply ingrained and difficult to abandon. Indeed, the etymology of the terms androgen (to build a man) and estrogen (to create estrus) illustrate the role played by sexual ideology.

An important example of how the course of research on sexuality has been shaped by cultural beliefs is illustrated by research on rodents from the 1930s to the present. Fausto-Sterling describes the development of Beach’s research and how his complex theory of animal sexuality was eventually replaced by the far narrower ideas of Young and his colleagues. Beach, the leading scholar in this area from the 1930s through the 1950s, was critical of what he believed were the unscientific assumptions of the main social learning theories popular during the 1940s and 1950s. He argued that biology had a more significant influence on sexual behavior. However, Beach’s theory was not reductionist. He believed that we had to study the complex interaction of the various physiological systems (e.g., hormones, brain, central nervous system) as they interacted to shape behavior. He also demonstrated the significant influence individual genetic differences within sex and species had on animal sexuality. In addition, Beach’s research documented the important effects context and experience had on sexual behavior. Another important finding was that adult bisexuality and homosexuality were natural, not abnormal behaviors.

In 1959, Young and his colleagues presented what came to be the dominant scientific view of sexual development. The new theory–the organizational/activational (O/A) model of hormone activity–held that “pre- or perinatal hormones organized central nervous tissue so that at puberty hormones could activate specific behaviors” (p. 214, italics in the original). The O/A theory presented a direct challenge to the psychosexual neutrality theory proposed by the Hampsons and Money.

Neither the Hampsons nor Money ever claimed that biology played no role in sexual development; they did argue that early social learning had a more powerful influence on the development of our sexuality. Thus, the debate between Young and his colleagues on one side and Money and his colleagues on the other was around the relative importance of nature versus nurture. This dispute was not trivial, but we should note that both groups accepted that sexual dimorphism was natural and that the nature/nurture dichotomy was the way to approach the issue. Over time, the O/A theory came to dominate research on human sexuality, although Money’s influence on the treatment of intersexuals continues into the present.

Fausto-Sterling claims that the rejection of Beach’s ideas and the shift to the O/A theory has had a negative impact on sexuality research and our understanding of human sexuality. As individual genetic differences (lab rodents were bred to eliminate such differences) and the effects of experience were excluded from the focus of O/A research, biology came to be seen as the foundation for sexual development. For some researchers, biology was the overriding cause of human sexuality. However, even those who believed that an interaction between nature and nurture best explained sexual development assumed that biology provided the basic foundation to be shaped by subsequent experience.

Fausto-Sterling argues that research on sexuality will remain constrained as long as we continue to accept the O/A mind/body dualism, which holds that the body (nature) is the fundamental precursor to behavior. She believes we need to switch our perspective “so that we see nature and nurture as an indivisible, dynamic system.” (p. 228). This is not, in her estimation, a new view, but one that has been neglected. She cites research (animal and human) to illustrate how the environment (including the prenatal environment) can change our anatomy, brain, and central nervous system. In this way, “events outside the body become incorporated into our very flesh” (p. 238).

Fausto-Sterling argues for a more flexible view of sex and sexuality, one that does not give primary signifying status to the genitals but allows an individual the right to redefine his/her sexual identity. She urges researchers to abandon terms such as sex hormones, androgen, and estrogen and to use the more accurate term steroid hormones instead. She also asks that we consider removing the category sex from our major forms of identification (e.g., driver’s license). While such proposals might seem radical to many, they are motivated by her research on the dysfunctional effects of our current views of sex and sexuality.
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Compared to other primates, humans take far longer to reach maturity. One can argue that the evolutionary benefit derived from remaining so long in such a vulnerable state comes from the increased opportunity for environment (cultural and physiological) to shape our behavior. Understanding this sort of dynamic system requires both a change of view and extensive research collaboration across disciplinary boundaries. Sexing the Body promotes the dialogue required to move in this direction. Fausto-Sterling claims to “have written two books in one: a narrative accessible to a general audience and a scholarly work intended to advance discussion and arguments within academic circles” (p. ix). She has succeeded on both counts.

REFERENCES

Colapinto, J. (2000). As nature made him: The boy who was raised as a girl. New York: HarperCollins.

Diamond, M. (1965). Critical evaluation of the ontogeny of human sexual behavior. Quarterly Review of Biology, 40, 147-175.

Dreger, A.D. (1998). Hermaphrodites and the medical invention of sex. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Herdt, G. (Ed.). (1996). Third sex, third gender: Beyond sexual dimorphism in culture and history. New York: Zone Books.

Reviewed by William B. Stanley, University of Colorado at Boulder, School of Education,Education Building 124, Campus Box 249, Boulder, CO 80309; e-mail: wb.stanley@colorado.edu and Lynn W. Stanley, 1741 Lois Court, Lafayette, CO 80026; e-mail: wbs@colorado.edu.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

Mediterranean Sharks And Rays Endangered

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Three species of angel sharks (Squatina spp.) found in the Mediterranean are critically endangered. (Credit: Image courtesy of World Conservation Union)

The report, released November 15 by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, shows that the region has the highest percentage of threatened sharks and rays in the world.

“From devil rays to angel sharks, Mediterranean populations of these vulnerable species are in serious trouble,” said Claudine Gibson, Programme Officer for the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and co-author of the report. “Our analyses reveal the Mediterranean Sea as one of the world’s most dangerous places on Earth for sharks and rays. Bottom dwelling species appear to be at greatest risk in this region, due mainly to intense fishing of the seabed.”

The report also identifies habitat degradation, recreational fisheries, and other human disturbances as significant threats to the sharks and rays of the Mediterranean.

These are the findings of an expert workshop at which 71 Mediterranean species of sharks, rays and chimaeras (cartilaginous fishes) were assessed using IUCN Red List categories and criteria. Participants deemed 30 species as threatened with extinction, of which 13 are classified at the highest threat level of Critically Endangered, eight as Endangered and nine as Vulnerable. Another 13 species were assessed as Near Threatened, while a lack of information led to 18 species being classified as Data Deficient. Only 10 species are considered to be of Least Concern.

The Maltese Skate (Leucoraja melitensis), found only in the Mediterranean, is assessed as Critically Endangered. Bottom trawl fisheries are the main cause for population declines of 80%. The angular roughshark (Oxynotus centrina) and three species of angel sharks (Squatina spp.) are also Critically Endangered.

The giant devil ray (Mobula mobular), which occurs primarily in the Mediterranean, is considered Endangered. Females can grow to five meters (17 feet) and give birth to only one pup per pregnancy. This large size and low reproductive capacity make devil rays especially vulnerable to capture and entanglement in various net fisheries, including illegal driftnets.

The shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) and porbeagle (Lamna nasus), both prized for their meat and fins, were found to be Critically Endangered in the Mediterranean. The sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus) is listed as Endangered in the region and even the relatively prolific blue shark (Prionace glauca) is considered Vulnerable to extinction here.

“We are particularly concerned about the porbeagle and mako sharks in the Mediterranean,” warned Dr Alen Soldo of the University of Split in Croatia, an expert on oceanic sharks who participated in the workshop. “Our studies reveal persistent fishing pressure well in excess of the reproductive capacity of the species, which led to our decision to categorize them in the highest threat category under the Red List criteria.”

Only one species, the Portuguese dogfish (Centroscymnus coelolepis), has a better conservation status inside the Mediterranean Sea, where it is considered of Least Concern, than globally (Near Threatened). This deep sea shark is found at depths of nearly 4,000 meters and may be protected by a 2005 ban on fisheries below 1,000 meters by the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean (GFCM).

Protection measures in place and more needed

This deepwater fishing ban, along with prohibitions on driftnets and shark finning (slicing off a shark’s valuable fins and discarding the body at sea) may help to lift some of the pressure on sharks and rays in the Mediterranean. However, better enforcement is required to give cartilaginous fish populations a chance to recover.

There are no catch limits for fished species of Mediterranean sharks and rays. Eight species of sharks and rays have been listed on the four international conventions relevant to Mediterranean wildlife conservation, but only three species have received any protection as a result: white and basking sharks are protected in Croatian and European Community waters, while Malta and Croatia protect the giant devil ray.

This week, in Turkey, international fisheries managers are expected to discuss limits on fishing for porbeagle and shortfin mako sharks at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which guides Mediterranean rules for species taken in tuna fisheries.

“Never before have Mediterranean countries had more reason or opportunity to safeguard the region’s beleaguered sharks and rays,” said Sonja Fordham, Deputy Chair of the SSG and Policy Director for the Shark Alliance. “Country officials should heed the dire warnings of this report and act to protect threatened sharks and rays through regional fisheries agreements, international wildlife conventions, and national legislation. Such action is necessary to change the current course toward extinction of these remarkable ocean animals.”

The report aims to assist in policy development for the conservation and sustainable use of Mediterranean cartilaginous fishes and provides a range of recommendations to that end. Conservation and fisheries organizations need to collaborate to ensure these measures are urgently implemented to curb the decline of sharks and rays in the region and to also guarantee the sustainability of marine resources – fundamental to the livelihoods of Mediterranean societies.

“Once again, the main concern is not only for each individual species – as important as they are – but for the cumulative impact of this loss of biodiversity,” said Annabelle Cuttelod, Mediterranean Red List Coordinator at the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation. “We are observing serious changes which will have major consequences over time on all animal life and, ultimately, on the livelihoods of people around the Mediterranean.”

The IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation is currently assessing the status of marine fish in the Mediterranean, in collaboration with the IUCN Species Programme and the Turkish Marine Research Foundation (TUDAV). About 30 experts are meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, from 12 to 16 November to analyze this issue.

The report is entitled “Overview of the Conservation Status of Cartilaginous Fishes (Chondrichthyans) in the Mediterranean Sea” by Rachel D. Cavanagh and Claudine Gibson and is the third in a series of Mediterranean Regional Assessments.

About sharks in the ecosystem

  • Most sharks and rays are exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing because of their tendency to grow slowly, mature late, and produce few young.
  • Most sharks play key roles as top predators in marine food webs. By feeding on the weak and wounded of prey

Source: World Conservation Union.