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The internet has a much more convoluted history than you might think. The internet is often seen and used as something that has “always existed”, but understanding the history of it will easily punch holes in that false idea (which is often used in literature and film, for some reason; refer to link above). There’s way too much for me to go through, so I’m just going to highlight a few key points.

Preceding the internet was the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), which was born from necessity as there were only a limited number of powerful research computers at the time. ARPANET was the world’s first operational packet switching network, allowing researchers access to the aforementioned computers even if they were geographically separated from them. In the 1980s, Al Gore promoted legislation that funded an expansion of the ARPANET, eventually allowing greater public access and thus enabling the creation of the internet. This alone is enough for me to put Al Gore in the Hall of Fame (which I will do later).

In 1971, the first ARPANET email was sent (yes, the email predates the internet) and by 1973, the ARPANET made its first trans-Atlantic connection with the University College of London. By now, email accounted for 75% of ARPANET activity. In 1974, there was a proposal to link networks similar to ARPANET together into an “inter-network” with no central control, operating around a transmission control protocol (eventually becoming TCP/IP). In 1983, ARPANET computers met the deadline for switching over to TCP/IP protocols (which is what modern internet functions on) and in 1984, Domain Name System (DNS) was created. By 1987, there were nearly 30,000 hosts on the internet (as the TCP/IP switch allowed for a much larger number of hosts). 1989 saw the proposal for a World Wide Web (originally called “Mesh”), written by Tim Berners-Lee. He finished the protocols for the World Wide Web in 1990, along with standards for HTML, HTTP and URLs. I’ll stop our journey in 1991 when the first web page was created; the page explained what the World Wide Web was.

As mentioned, the internet was born of the need for a greater communications network for researchers. There is a theory floating around that the internet began with some military computers in the Pentagon that were designed to survive a nuclear attack, but Bob Taylor (the Pentagon official in charge of ARPANET) insists the purpose was not military but scientific. The term “internet” was a social influence on the term “inter-network”, though no one is quite sure when the word became standard.

Mellifluous

Adjective

(Pertaining to sound) Pleasant sounding.

She had a mellifluous voice that never failed to make him smile.

This is a cool one because I think everyone can relate to this word but few people use or know about it.

Ribald

Adjective

Referring to obscene matters (usually sexual), mostly as a type of humour.

His joke was shockingly ribald but they still laughed uncontrollably. 

So I have a few scrapes that turned to scabs recently and while absent-mindedly scratching them, I remembered the first time I found out why scabs itch.

There are actually a number of reasons theorised for the itching sensation. I’ll give the two most plausible ones.

First of all, there are tiny nerves in the upper layers of your skin that can send tickling sensations to your brain. When the skin is torn, the healing process may cause these nerves to send signals (like testing to see whether everything is working), which your brain misinterprets as itching. Also, as the wound heals, the scab pulls away from the skin gradually, further stimulating these nerves.

Second, scabs contain histamines which irritate the surrounding area of skin. It’s said that the histamines are there so to help the process – so that when the wound is fully healed, you’ll just scratch it off. Unfortunately, the itching begins long before it’s ready to remove the scab.

Some of you may have heard the recent hubbub about polar bear cannibalism. Photographer Jenny Ross snapped a few photos of a polar bear eating a cub. Following these photos are a string of media bandwagon hoppers (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2071638/Polar-bears-Cannibal-pictures-prove-theyll-eat-bear-cubs.html) who have taken this opportunity to write a “controversial” attention grabber – that polar bears are vicious creatures that will even eat their own babies. Well f**k you media, once again your inadequate, opportunistic “minds” are misrepresenting the point. Frankly, these animals don’t deserve the bad light they’re being cast in.

Anyone who understands the nuances of language can see how these articles (you can find many more about this topic) are all being very critical and disapproving. This is considered cruel, apparently, and makes the polar bear an immoral animal. This coming from humans, who have destroyed more of this world than any other living creature could hope to achieve, committed atrocities that sicken even ourselves, and who are directly responsible for the “rise in polar bear cannibalism” cases.

What’s the reality of the matter though? Polar bears have it tough, probably one of the toughest out of all living creatures. Not only do they live in perpetual cold with a huge body and very limited food, human impact on fish populations and temperature cycles have made these animals even more desperate. These days, polar bears will wander into towns to rummage through garbage cans because they are that desperate for food. As a human, who has everything they want, a warm home and enough food to waste it by throwing leftovers in the bin, there is no possible way you could apply human concepts of morality to a desperate animal.

Bear cannibalism has been an observed phenomena for quite some time now, albeit rather rare. Dr Ian Stirling suggests cases in polar bears may be increasing due to their desperation:

Dr Ian Stirling of Environment Canada, who co-wrote the paper published in the journal Arctic, said cannibalism among polar bears has been witnessed before, but he said the rate of cannibalism may be increasing as the sea ice now melts earlier in the year.

The primary food source for polar bears is seals, which they normally hunt from ice floes. The ice floes melt during summer and in some places the ice disappears altogether, making hunting for seals more difficult. Ross said the bears are forced to seek out other foods such as sea birds and their eggs, and human foods and waste, but these are not enough to sustain them.

The melting sea ice problem is a terrible one that’s always saddened me ever since I heard of it from Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. Polar bears will swim out in search for food and have no ice floes to rest on. With no other option, they just keep swimming and swimming in that freezing cold water, hoping some food will pass by or a bit of ice will appear, until their body just fails and they drown. Imagine drowning like that because you just couldn’t find somewhere to sit. That’s such a horrible way to live and die.

So before you go accusing them of being “violent and occasionally cannibalistic” or that they’re “cruel”, take a look at the reasons why. Your opinion is not even valid because you don’t see the world the same way. You have hopes, dreams and luxuries. A polar bear has only one thought: to survive.

Addendum: Some articles were actually a lot more objective about the whole ordeal (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/08/polar-bear-eats-cub-cannibalism_n_1136428.html). I guess some media sources have more integrity than others.

Also, sad as it is, I’m almost certain polar bears will be extinct (or very near to it) before the end of my lifetime (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/09/070910-polar-bears.html). Some of you may be apathetic, but to me, it just puts everything into perspective – letting human greed destroy all the beauty on Earth, while petty little men squabble in war-torn countries and even pettier men hoard their wealth, built on the pain of others.

Surprisingly enough, I do not completely reject the notion of dream interpretation, though to paraphrase Sheldon Cooper, astrology is complete hokum.

The reason why I consider dream interpretation slightly more realistic is because rather than narcissistically claiming self-importance or self-worth based on arbitrarily defined constellations, dreams are a product of one’s self. Don’t get me wrong, the entire “industry” for dream interpretation is basically a scam to lure in the weak minded, but at its core, a dream is a series of information that your brain is processing during REM sleep. Often, it can manifest in mundane ways, but sometimes the dream is abstract (my favourite) and is thus more confusing. The crux of the matter here is that a dream is simply an obscure collection of information that you already know – thus dreams cannot predict the future (in any useful way) or any of that other nonsense, but they can be a manifestation of your current concerns.

I wrote this article with a post I had in mind where I interpreted someone’s dream for them, but unfortunately I think that person removed his post so I can’t use it as an example. Suffice to say it was an abstract desert setting in which he came under attack by mysterious riders, one of whom (the only one whose face he could see) was a beautiful woman. I interpreted the barren, primitive setting as an allusion to abandonment and isolation, the attack as a feeling of alienation and victimisation, and the woman as a latent sexual frustration. Combined, I saw the dream as a manifestation of the poster’s feeling of loneliness, caused by a constant lack of success with women, to the point where his automatic reaction to them was one of defence (they being the source of some pain), and the specific woman’s face to be indicative of one particular girl at the current time that he’s been thinking of. Naturally, I made this interpretation without any contextual knowledge of the person, which may have increased the accuracy, but surprisingly he responded a few days later that it was indeed very accurate and that he had been struggling with the exact issues I mentioned.

Anyway, the point here is he already knew he had these issues – so the dream in itself is only telling yourself something you already know. In that regard, it’s an exercise in futility to try and discover something profoundly important in your own dreams because the dream itself will only contain information you already know.

It’s interesting that the majority of dream interpretation involves some sort of latent sexuality. The majority of Sigmund Freud’s dream interpretation works involve sexual symbols (the snake, the number three, the playing of an instrument, etc.) as well as egotism. These are all really just indicators that behind all the pretense, sex and narcissism are hugely important factors to humans.

Recondite 

Adjective

Dealing with difficult, profound issues of which there is little known.

It was a recondite treatise that raised more questions than it answered.

Inspired by this recent example of stupidity at its finest, I’ve decided to make a new section – the Hall of Fame. There’ll be two parts to this – the good and the stupid, the latter to which Todd Akin belongs.

Many have probably heard this already (it’s all over America), but this hilarious republican proclaimed in an interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M09iWwKiDsA) when asked about his view on abortion that female victims of “legitimate rape” would not suffer pregnancy because their body “has ways to shut that whole thing down”. Congratulations on being the first member of the Hall of Stupid, Todd Akin! In light of this context, I would suggest that his brain was aborted, but I doubt anything I can say will come close to the raw amusement I feel about his idiocy. Not that I won’t try to describe it.

So apparently a lot of people are offended by this comment. I, on the other hand, find it hilarious. Not because I’m insensitive – no, if anything I’m being more sensitive than you all. Does a parent express offence and hatred to a child who has made a silly comment? Does a professor expel a student in contempt because the student is not capable of the same higher order thinking as the professor? No, when somebody with an obviously impaired intelligence says something silly, you just don’t take it seriously. I mean, what would you expect from a right wing politician and a religious nut? That’s a recipe for disaster. I’m sorry religion, but you have some really stupid people speaking for you.

But you know what? This one takes the cake:

To appease my conscience a little, I’m going to put some information in here so it doesn’t just end up being a post where I pay out an idiot (making me a bully – though, come on … what did he expect after saying something like that). This is taken from the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (figures are of Americans).

Pregnancies Resulting from Rape

In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.

This calculation does not account for the following factors which could lower the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Rape, as defined by the NCVS, is forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by offender(s). This category includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Certain types of rape under this definition cannot cause pregnancy.
  • Some victims of rape may be utilizing birth control methods, such as the pill, which will prevent pregnancy.
  • Some rapists may wear condoms in an effort to avoid DNA detection.
  • Vicims of rape may not be able to become pregnant for medical or age-related reasons.
This calculation does not account for the following factors which could raise the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Medical estimates of a 5% pregnancy rate are for one-time, unprotected sexual intercourse. Some victimizations may include multiple incidents of intercourse.
  • Because of methodology, NCVS does not measure the victimization of Americans age 12 or younger. Rapes of these young people could results in pregnancies not accounted for in RAINN’s estimates.

In fact, rape could arguably have a higher chance of pregnancy (http://news.kuwaittimes.net/2012/08/21/rape-trauma-as-barrier-to-pregnancy-has-no-basis-raped-victims-may-be-more-likely-to-get-pregnant-experts/):

In a 2003 study in the journal Human Nature, researchers found that 6.4 percent of rapes in the hundreds of women they surveyed caused pregnancy; that compares to a rate roughly half that with consensual intercourse. In Mexico, rape crisis centers have reported that some 15 percent of rapes cause pregnancy. The rate may be high because rape victims are less likely to be using contraception at the time of the crime than are women in a relationship, who can also choose to forego sex during fertile periods in their reproductive cycle if they do not want to conceive.- Reuters

So there, we’ve learned two things. First, there are humongous idiots walking this Earth and second, rape can cause pregnancy. Oh wait, I guess those are both just common sense – common sense being something that eludes Todd Akin. That’ll be my last jab at him. Well, if nothing else, I thank Todd Akin for inspiring a section dedicated to fools like himself.

Addendum: Friend linked me this picture, which is also pretty funny.

Sometimes longer is not always better. This is a great one because it looks like a typo.

Mien (pronounced meen):

Noun

A person’s appearance, including look and manner, that indicates their character.

I try to keep this blog religion free but this post will probably cut close to the line (and if it crosses a line, it’s your fault not mine – religion doesn’t have to conflict with evolution, you just want it to). I just want to make it clear I’m not attacking any beliefs – I just want to make some things clear whilst championing truth and logical reasoning. If it makes you sleep better, you’re free to believe that evolution was “set into motion” by a god, but the fact is that evolution is very real.

On a side note, I’m sick of theists trying to use science to disprove science. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t suddenly decide to believe in a certain, small amount of science taken out of context to “prove” your god, and then turn around and ignore all the other science pointing to another answer. If you’re a believer, stick to your beliefs and stop trying to justify it. If you feel the need to use an opposing ideal to verify your own, then you obviously don’t have enough strength in your beliefs to rely on it alone. You don’t see scientists saying god proves that there is no god.

Back on topic: here are some facts about evolution that many people might not know.

  1. The Catholic Church has changed its public stance to accept evolution as a fact, the same way it changed its opinion on a heliocentric solar system (Earth revolving around the sun). I lead with this because the Vatican seems to have no problem reconciling its beliefs with this particular scientific fact, although its reasoning is a bit sketchy. In a nutshell, the Church says they’re not sure whether cosmological and biological evolution exist but if it does, then it’s because of god. As for evolution, the Church accepts that we evolved from other biological life forms, but claims that god “specially created” our “soul”.
  2. Humans did not come from monkeys. This claim is an oversimplification commonly employed by theists to try and disrepute evolution and is a combination of both the Strawman and appeal to emotion logical fallacies (making it a doubly stupid claim). First of all, humans are closer to modern apes than monkeys, which automatically makes theists using this claim a whole deal more ignorant. Second, we didn’t evolve from these apes either, we share a common ancestor. About 5-8 million years ago, our common ancestor diverged into two separate lineages, one of which went on to become modern apes and the other became us humans. In fact, even this is oversimplifying it. Our common ancestor evolved into the earliest hominid species 5-8 million years ago, and since then, there have been dozens of different species of human-like creatures. It’s not as simple as take a monkey, pop, oh look it’s a human; it’s millions of years of dozens of species evolving slowly over time, with homo sapiens being the greatest survivor. It’s almost like the mitochondrial Eve.
  3. Humans have roughly a 96% DNA similarity to chimpanzees. This figure was previously as high as 99% but has been revised over time. DNA comparison by itself is somewhat limited so let’s introduce the next point.
  4. The missing chromosome between humans and apes has been discovered. Some of you might know about this, but for those who don’t, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have 48 chromosomes (if traced back far enough, humans have a common ancestry with these three separate species, with chimps being the closest). Humans, however, have only 46 chromosomes. If common ancestry were to be valid, one would expect humans to have a same number of chromosomes as our distant cousins. Chromosomes can’t just disappear, which would be fatal, so there are only two possibilities – either humans do not share a common ancestry with apes or two chromosomes got fused. Well, Dr. Ken Miller and other associates have located the two chromosomes that were fused through whole genome sequencing techniques. Chromosomes have centromeres which are DNA sequences used to separate them in the middle during mitosis and telomeres, which are DNA sequences at the ends. If two chromosomes were fused, we would have telomeres in the centre of the chromosome (instead of at the end). Guess what? They found the chromosome, it’s the Human Chromosome #2, which shows the exact point at which this fusion took place.
  5. There are many examples of evolution happening right before our eyes. It’ll take far too long for me to list  them and why, so I’ll give a quick list of the names and you can Google these for yourself if you don’t believe me (which you should). Peppered moths, three-toed skinks, crabs and mussels, Italian wall lizards, cane toads, Darwin’s finches, butterflies and parasites, viruses and superviruses (SARS, swineflu), flatfish, Australian skinks, elephants, fish in the Hudson River and many other species of lizards besides the ones I’ve mentioned.

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