Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Biologists Wipe Out Spatial Memory in Mice

Image: Ars Technica.

Ars Technica is reporting on published research from the University of Aberdeen that scientists investigating schizophrenia have inadvertently wiped out the working spatial memory of their lab mice:
Working memory is the place we hold temporary information that we're using to handle ongoing tasks, like dialing a phone number or following a set of directions. We often forget these after we're done—unless it's going to be your daily commute, you don't need to permanently recall that you make a left at the third traffic light—but working memory plays an essential role in many processes, and a person's working memory capacity seems to correlate with their performance on a variety of tests. So, what happens if you wipe a bit of working memory out?

Scientists have now found out what happens in mice, although it probably wasn't what they intended to do. A team at the University of Aberdeen were focusing on a specific type of neuron that's damaged in people with schizophrenia, as well as those who abuse ketamine and PCP. (These neurons express a protein called parvalbumin.) They bred mice in which they could selectively stop these neurons by injecting a virus into specific areas of the brain. The virus would only be active in the cells of interest, and ensure the production of a tetanus toxin, which prevents the nerves from firing signals to their neighbors.

They found that they could use the virus to paralyze over 80 percent of the parvalbumin-positive neurons in a specific area of the brain, the CA1 region of the hippocampus, a brain structure associated with memory. The mice were then subjected to a battery of tests where, for the most part, they were surprisingly normal, with no signs of problems with locomotion or anxiety. They also learned to navigate a maze just as well as their unaltered peers, showing that spatial reference memory was intact.

But they couldn't navigate their way very smoothly. ... [I]t appears that the mice that lacked working spatial memory knew where they were trying to go, but didn't quite manage to figure out how to get there, since they couldn't keep track of where they'd been. There are a number of working memory systems beyond spatial memory, though—humans have dedicated systems for images and words, for example—but it will be tough to use mice to determine whether these neurons are a general feature of working memory.
Research Article Reference: Nature Neuroscience, 2011. DOI: 10.1038/nn.2751

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Wonderful World of Millennial Bathtubs

Whirlpool Glass Bathtub.  Image Source: Dvice.

And now for something completely different. Here's a sign of the times - the crazy shit designers get up to with different consumer goods when money is no object.  Today's focus: Millennial Bathtubs (plus a couple of shower cabinets).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Matter of Trust

V for Vendetta imagery persists around WikiLeaks-related stories. Image Source: Ars Technica.

Back in 1990, Hal Hartley directed a great little film called Trust, starring the late lamented Adrienne Shelley and Martin Donovan.  This dark comedy hinged on a critical moment where the heroine informs the hero that love depends above all on trust.  It's a social value that is also at the root of doing business.  Within the bounds of a contract, we expect that we can trust our partners.  But now, trust is changing. 

In a recent Piers Morgan CNN interview, this was the main point put forth by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss about their former partner Mark Zuckerberg regarding the disputed origins of Facebook.  They maintained that within the bounds of a business agreement, there is nothing irrational about trusting your partner, while Morgan argued that in high-stakes business, people get stabbed in the back all the time.  Morgan said: lack of trust is normal.  You should expect that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reflections on the Revolving Door of Death 4: New Heroes for a New Millennium

Wonder Woman cast outside her regular reality and possibly time stream. Wonder Woman #606 (February 2011; originally listed as variant cover for WW #604 December 2010).

In 2010, DC celebrated its 75th anniversary. DC has long been the premier American comics company that is devoted to the modern perpetuation of classic myths. Where Marvel set itself up in the 1960s as a platform for social commentary, DC dealt with eternal archetypes. For an entire generation, DC has explored the disintegration of heroism: those archetypes have been dismantled by the very company that is supposedly committed to preserving them.  What does this mean for American heroism?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wonder Woman Gets Her Own Cosmetics Line

 Image Source: Comics Beat.

In keeping with the comic focus I'm doing this week on the blog, this story popped up, and I Just Could Not Resist It.  Several marketing and comics culture trend sites are reporting that Warner Brothers Consumer Products is teaming up with  MAC to flog a new line of Wonder Woman cosmetics (see reports here, here, here, here and here).  This is for Millenial girls everywhere (Hat tip: @KateSherrod).

There's a touch of anti-second-gen feminism in all this, which is intriguing, since Diana was once one of Gloria Steinem's talking points, which I've blogged about here.  Mind you, I don't see Post-Postfeminist Millennial girls complaining.   Fashionably Geek reports: "MAC Cosmetics, you’ve done it. You’ve finally convinced me to buy new make-up. All you had to do was add Wonder Woman."  I'm sure DC fanboys won't be complaining either.

Image Source: Comics Beat.

The line has some fantastic-looking blue Themyscira mascara, Paradise Island Eye Quad Defiance shadows and Golden Lariat bronze powder; the collection also features some interesting pure pigments and metallic sparkle powders for nighttime and some staid neutral Amazonian classics for daytime.  The line launched in the US and Canada on February 10 and launches internationally in March.
See the animated comic book Wonder Woman video, featuring the cosmetics below the jump, wherein Princess Diana battles the Medusa with lipstick and pressed powder and the Power of the Goddess Aphrodite.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love in the New Millennium 5: Valentine's Day, Love and Time

Craig Thompson's Blankets.

It's Valentine's Day. A day, as Lisa Simpson might say, honouring a saint who was gruesomely killed then buried by the side of the road. Perhaps fittingly, St. Valentine refers to three different people, a priest, a bishop and a martyr who was lost in Africa. Pick your poison. The messiness of the holiday may derive from the fact that the Catholic Church probably superimposed the holiday over the ancient pastoral health and fertility festival of Lupercalia, which was observed in Roman and pre-Roman civilizations.  This festival was later dressed up in courtly love conventions derived from the late medieval and early Renaissance periods. Those conventions are now tied to marketing and spending money.  So how do we get back to the fundamentals and remember what love is all about?

Whether you are happily paired off, or single and eating chocolate and doing your best to ignore this day, almost everyone can agree on that little corner of memory they keep reserved for the one that got away or for 'the one.'  One of the best recent and most touching tributes to this kind of first love that I've seen is Craig Thompson's 2003 graphic novel, Blankets. Wiki gives details on the critical acclaim and prizes which the graphic novel received; it has been translated into several languages:
Thompson has said that the novel grew out of a simple idea: to describe what it feels like to sleep next to someone for the first time. In 2005, Time chose it as one of the 10 best English language, graphic novels ever written. ... Most critics considered it a milestone in the progress of the American graphic novel, not only in length but also in visual grace and technique. Critics have further hailed it as one of the best graphic novels in recent years, claiming that the book will be remembered for its superb execution a decade after publication. The Bloomsbury Review called it "a superb example of the art of cartooning: the blending of word and picture to achieve an effect that neither is capable of without the other." Time stated that Thompson's work "has set new bars for the medium not just in length, but breadth."
When I read it, I felt that Blankets got it right.  And the reviewers were correct.  The blend of image and narrative created a momentum that gave the very act of reading a sensation paralleling the unfolding of love.  The strip conveyed how love develops and easily exposes lovers' vulnerabilities.  It let the reader grasp the fear and pockets of uncertainty, the ebb and flow of communication that build intimacy and trust.  Ultimately, the story captured the riveting, transformative, breathless beauty of first love, a fleeting and riveting experience that is never lost.  It is also dedicated to showing how love transforms lovers - changing them, pulling them out of their worlds, turning them into different people.  If you want to contemplate love, read Blankets.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Look Skyward: More Solar Weather

Image Source: 3D Sun News Viewer.

Further to my comments from a couple of days ago (here) about sunspots, explosions on the surface of the Sun and wild speculation about the corresponding impact on Earth's magnetic field, the strongest solar flare yet this year occurred today; a Coronal Mass Ejection of electro-magnetic and charged particles will reach Earth on February 15. (Hat tip: @KateSherrod.)

Millennial Horrors: Frantic Efforts to Quell Epidemics in South Korea

Live pigs being buried in South Korea, 2011. Image Source: MfA Blog.

In terms of staring at the word 'Apocalypse' and watching it suddenly and quietly take on new depth of meaning, this report is worse than the dead birds and fish in January (my updated blog post on that story is here).  Thanks to a Seoul-based friend of mine, who just told me about the horrific attempts in South Korea to quell simultaneous outbreaks of hoof and mouth disease (which began on November 28 with infected pigs in the city of Andong in North Gyeongsang province) and bird flu.  Most of the country's livestock - some 3 million animals and roughly 5 million birds - have been buried alive in rapidly dug pits in the past three weeks.

Another Web Comic You Should Be Reading

Don't Touch (29 September 2010). Image © James Anderson. Image Source: Ellie on Planet X.

I09 recently gave Ellie on Planet X, a whimsical Web comic about a robot exploring another world, a glowing reviewThe strip began 10 June 2010.