rivendellrose: (scully red)
One of the neat things about the Flipboard app on iPad is that it makes a quick scan through news and other happenings online veeeery easy. This morning, while I was drinking my tea and going through my usual mix of New Scientist, assorted news feeds and various lifestyle blogs (where I found this lemon cake that I am now dying to try to make for Thanksgiving, but sort of afraid I am not sufficiently baker-skilled to manage), I found something (else) very interesting: it was a picture of some really beautifully-preserved mummies that had, in life, been subjected to skull flattening.

What's skull-flattening? I'm glad you asked, imaginary reader!

You see, our modern cultures around the world today aren't the first Human cultures to get the idea that something unnatural (like, say, over-inflated lips or silicon filled breats) are attractive. Most cultures throughout history seem to have practiced some kind of body alteration for the purpose of beauty, basically based on the idea that if you're spending a bunch of time and energy doing (x) to your body (or your kid's body), you must have enough resources not to be worrying about whether or not you're going to eat today. Body modification, whether it's scarring, foot-binding, or, in this case, strapping boards to your infant's head to flatten and elongate his or her skull while it's still soft, is a great way to advertize that you don't have to spend your time working. In other words, it's like having really absurdly long fake nails, high heels, absurdly exaggerated musculature, or a perfect tan even in winter. It's a sign that says "I'm so successful I can waste my energy on stuff that doesn't make sense from a pure survival standpoint!"

Think of it like the Human equivalent of a peacock tail. It's a shitty idea as far as avoiding predators, but the people around you (particularly the lady peacocks) think it's damned impressive, and from an evolutionary standpoint, that's what matters.

So, hey, this is exciting! I've seen illustrations of people with flattened foreheads, and I've seen a few dull pictures of the skulls, but I'd never seen anything so nicely preserved. I got very excited. ...And then I noticed the headline next to the photo.

"Scientists think this triangular skull belongs to an alien"

Um, what? No... no, not if they've ever so much as flipped through a basic archaeology textbook, they don't. Especially not since the skulls were found in Peru. Guess what region notably picked skull-flattening out of the bazillion body-modification options available to pre-industrial humanity? Peru. I even looked it up for you, to prove it - a quick Google search for "peru skull-flattening" gets you this Wikipedia article on artificial cranial deformation, which is the technical term for this kind of body mod. Down under "Reasons" you'll see a great little diagram of the methods the Mayans used, and next to the "History" section are a pair of skulls pictured underneath an 18th century painting of a Chinookan child undergoing the process, being held by a woman on whom the adult result can be seen. The top skull is labeled as Incan. Where did the Inca live, ladies and gentlemen? Peru. Relevant quote:

Artificial cranial deformation, head flattening, or head binding is a form of permanent body alteration in which the skull of a human being is intentionally deformed. It is done by distorting the normal growth of a child's skull by applying force. Flat shapes, elongated ones (produced by binding between two pieces of wood), rounded ones (binding in cloth) and conical ones are among those chosen.

Take another look at that Inca skull. Now look at the 'alien' mummies. I think I'll rest my case.

I shall refrain from commenting on the probable credentials of those Russian and Spanish "doctors" who think these things are from outer space, except to say that there's no law anywhere saying a total crackpot nutjob can't have a PhD in something. Io9 has an article about the same thing. I like to think they're being more than a little tongue-in-cheek about it, which makes me happy, but they're not quite clear enough about the "wtf, no" as I might prefer.
rivendellrose: (octopus)
So, I'm behind in this whole internet thing due to the wedding and the honeymoon, but here's a good one - have you all heard the story about the prehistoric kraken making self-portraits out of its enemies' bodies?

If that doesn't make you go "huh, WHAT?" then you've probably already read the io9 article linked above. But have you read the actual abstract they link to? No shit, it's an actual abstract written by an actual professor at an actual college for an actual conference. Believe me - I checked. Because I just could not believe this guy was for real. He's even an honest-to-goodness geology professor there, not a wandering professor of philosophy or something who'd got lost and gone to the wrong conference. Or, y'know, even more reasonably, a professor of creative writing. Nope. Actual geology prof. Googling his co-author (and, presumably, wife) turns up mostly the books they've co-authored, and also her Facebook page (oh, age of the internet, how sort of scary you are!)... in which we find out that she is a fan of science fiction, particularly of Firefly (awesome!)... and, less impressively, that she was part of that slightly hare-brained attempt a while ago to help Nathan Fillion buy Firefly. Because that was totally a plausible thing, guys, really. Even though Nathan himself was like "dudes, chill" when he heard people were actually trying to raise money for it. Um. Yeah. Her trustworthiness just went down a bit in my estimation, if you want the honest truth... but hey, everybody can get sucked into a wacky idea from time to time.

...Like, for instance, the idea that a bunch of dead ichthyosaurs were murdered by super-giant squid and intentionally placed in an intentional pattern. No, seriously. Direct quote from the abstract:

We hypothesize that the shonisaurs were killed and carried to the site by an enormous Triassic cephalopod, a “kraken,” with estimated length of approximately 30 m, twice that of the modern Colossal Squid Mesonychoteuthis. In this scenario, shonisaurs were ambushed by a Triassic kraken, drowned, and dumped on a midden like that of a modern octopus. [...] The proposed Triassic kraken, which could have been the most intelligent invertebrate ever, arranged the vertebral discs in biserial patterns, with individual pieces nesting in a fitted fashion as if they were part of a puzzle. The arranged vertebrae resemble the pattern of sucker discs on a cephalopod tentacle, with each amphicoelous vertebra strongly resembling a coleoid sucker. Thus the tessellated vertebral disc pavement may represent the earliest known self‑portrait.

I might have been with them up until "The proposed Triassic kraken, which could have been the most intelligent invertebrate ever..."

The proposed kraken. Because, you see, we don't have any evidence of this kraken. None. At all. We know there are big-ass squid in the ocean now, but they're nowhere near the 30 meters described in this abstract. Likewise for any ancient corollaries. But, okay, things were big in the Triassic! Lots of shit in prehistory was a hell of a lot bigger than what we have today - just look at dragonflies, or millipedes, both known to have ancient corollaries that were frankly gigantic by comparison to their modern counterparts. No problem there. But... okay, not only are we theorizing 30 m squid, but we're also just putting out there that they might've been intentionally killing these shonisaurs and then carefully arranging them in a particular way as a self-portrait? The very first display of self-portraiture (or, in fact, art of any kind) anywhere in the world? I'm the first person to defend the brains of my beloved cephalopods, but even I have to step back at that and say "hold on, not too sure about this."

Looking at this guy's profile on the Mount Holyoke site, I'm thinking he's got a serious penchant for theories that have, to be charitable, minimal basis in reality. I'm not saying that none of them are true - and they'd all make fantastic science fiction! - I'm just saying that I will not be holding my breath for further discoveries regarding the artistic endeavors of 30 meter Triassic squid.

Pity. I'd love to see what kind of city a civilization of giant squid would build.
rivendellrose: (try science)
There's a chain email going around claiming that on August 27, 2010, Mars will be as close as it's ever been to Earth and it will appear as large as the full moon in the sky.

This email is a fake. It had some truth to it... seven years ago, in 2003. It's been making the circuits through cyberspace every summer since. If you don't believe me (and why should you? My degree is in anthropology and English lit, not astronomy!) Take a look at Earthsky.org's page on the hoax, or the page on Hoax-slayer.com, or, my particular favorite, a post from 2008 about this email by the Bad Astronomer himself, Phil Plait. Who quite rightly points out that the photo being circulated isn't even a picture of Mars and our Moon - it's a picture of two moons of Saturn, including, at the bottom of the picture, some of Saturn's rings. Or, hell, for that matter, go read Phil Plait's original post from 2007, where he debunked it for the first time.

Mars is not ever as big as the Moon. If it was, we'd probably have some pretty serious tidal problems to show for the event.

By all means, go look in the sky. Here's a site that tells you how you can actually see Mars in July and August, and it's totally worth it. I've seen Mars through an observatory telescope just once, and it was amazing and very worthwhile (at the Jacobsen Observatory, which has very nice public sessions for local folks here in Seattle - go check them out! The time we went they had honest-to-god astronomers (including TAs and professors) out to talk to you about what you're seeing, and it's fantastic and fun, and you'll see awesome things and learn a lot!). But don't be fooled by lame chain emails that don't even bother to update seven years running. ♥

(Also, for amusement, here's the Snopes entry on the whole phenomenon of this email, including the original version that was sent out in 2003. Just because I'm kind of enjoying this whole project.)
rivendellrose: (seeress)
So, I was thinking last night about ritual, religion, spirituality, skepticism, and pantheism. A weird mix, I know. I'll try to be as sensible as I can, and not just fall into flaily "I don't know how to explain what I'm thinking" territory. Unedited, free-form, and largely, I expect, utterly incomprehensible. I thought about making this private, but then decided that if there was feedback to be had, I'm at the point where I could probably use it.

Where I'm coming from, and a lot of wondering about what that points to in terms of spiritual whatevers. )

Statements in here are what works for me. Organized religion... doesn't, in my experience. I've tried and/or studied most of them. Additionally, I don't expect anyone else to abide by my weird concepts of intellectual honesty in terms of ripping things to shreds if they're not "real," and clearly I'm not too sure about how it's working for me, so I'm by no means advocating it. That said, it seems to be how I work. No offense is intended, only a whole lot of navel-gazing through the medium of print.
rivendellrose: (Warrior)
Three men released from prison term for rape of an 18 year-old girl because the acupuncturist says they're virgins.

She said examination of a pressure point beneath the convict's ear showed a small capillary was unbroken, which Vietnamese traditional medicine holds to mean that he was a virgin. Hong then examined the other two men.

After the acupuncturist delivered her 'verdict,' the courts reopened the case and found some errors whose significance are not at all explained, and released the guys. No word on what's happened to the rape victim in the mean time, but I'm sure she's thrilled that her three attackers turn out to have been innocent virgins.

Fantastic. Why don't you just duck the girl under water while you're at it? That way you can find out if she's a witch. That would explain everything, wouldn't it?
rivendellrose: (God?  What god?)
Scientology is in trouble about money and misusing their members? It must be Tuesday Monday.

This time, former Sea Org folks are suing for back wages.

Personally, this looks to me (with admittedly limited knowledge of the situation - this is just my instinct!) like a case of somebody doing something stupid and then realizing years later that they could weasel money out of it, but... oh, hey! That sounds a lot like Scientology itself, weaseling its way out of paying taxes by pretending to be a religion rather than just a wacked-out conglomeration of money-grubbing and self-aggrandizing stupidity written by an embarrassment to the sci-fi genre!

Normally, I'd be more or less against people suing for back-wages in a situation that is more or less a parody of the very real tragedy of slavery across the globe. In this case, since the organization they're looking to suck money out of is Scientology? I'm all for it.

Just pretend that my icon is asking about Xenu instead of God for today, please. ♥
rivendellrose: (scully red)
I just thought I'd share with you all another piece of nutjob idiocy that I first heard about on The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe a few weeks ago. They're a weekly science and skepticism podcast that deals with science and pseudoscience (and how to determine the difference between the two).

A few weeks ago, they were tipped off on the existence of Power Balance performance technology. If by "performance technology" you mean "neoprene bracelets with holograms on them." Holograms. You know, those things that were really popular on pencils and notebooks and crap back in the 90s? Well, it turns out that you can somehow magically embed them with frequencies, whatever the hell that means. To quote their website, "Power Balance is performance technology that uses holograms embedded with frequencies that react positively with your body’s natural energy field." Translation: Power Balance throws a lot of words we hope will impress you into our marketing material, because we figure you're too stupid to think about what they mean!

More under the cut )

In something like sports (or, where I learned this, theater) where your results are based on so many variables as to be almost arbitrary on any given day, lucky charms and things will always crop up. I certainly had things like that - when I was in theater, I was somewhat compulsive about wearing particular perfume, and listening to particular music on my headphones while I got ready every night of a performance. It made me feel better about my performance, and feeling better made me perform better. Lucky objects like that are a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I think that the rock I carry in my pocket or the particular perfume before a performance, or wearing my lucky socks on the day of a race, or whatever is lucky or otherwise beneficial to me, it will probably be so. There's no problem with that... as long as you're aware, like Dumbo with the feather, that it's not really the lucky charm that's making you fly.

And also as long as you don't try to sell cheap feathers online for $30 a pop with celebrity endorsements. That makes it wrong, too.
rivendellrose: (flirty)
Skepchick Rebecca talks about the oh-so-clever internet tactic of responding to someone's arguments... with insults about their appearance.

Oh, and for the record? I am so fucking with her on the subject of crowded teeth. Yeah, my teeth are a bit crowded. And you know? I've really got better fucking things to think about.

...Like whether I'm actually going to write tonight, or do some other useful thing like my homework, or get my pictures from the Valentine's trip transferred to my computer and onto the 'net...

Or just laugh at my cat, because he just knocked a ton of crap off the dresser in our living room because it was In His Way.
rivendellrose: (try science)
There appears to be decent, scientific (not just anecdotal) evidence that the much-touted Neti Pots actually work!

I feel much less guilty about my plan to pick one up, now. :) Now I just have to hope I don't manage, in a fit of my typical clumsiness, to somehow drown myself the first time I try to use it.
rivendellrose: (try science)
Snagged from fellow-skeptic [livejournal.com profile] seachanges: How skeptics know the world is not going to end because of some supposed Mayan calendar in 2012. AKA actual real information on the subject, with primary sources and everything! ♥
rivendellrose: (Lucy Saxon - so you say...)
Links ganked from this morning's SkepChick column...

First, the bad - and I can't do better for my link text than a quote from the article itself: 'Dr Voussogh said that for him, a woman has to be a piece of jewellery [sic] which a man values.' Cosmetic surgeon remakes his wife, who he married for her "potential," into his vision of perfection. With 8 surgeries.

I'll be over here, too fumed at the gall of that man to think of anything actually useful to say.

For the funny crazy: Am I Dating a Werewolf? - Jezebel reviews a book that takes the usual dating types and breaks them up into categories based on mythical creatures. More interesting than your usual dating manual, at least. Quotes such as "I liked the Urban Elf very much. But I was still rebounding from my Satyr and was soon distracted by yet another Satyr; my relationship with the Elf fell away" make me giggle. A lot. Not necessarily in a way that is friendly to the author.

And, lastly - skeptical/scientific jewelry. Some pretty stuff, there. I'm always a bit leery of purchasing ceramic online, because of how variable glazes can be, but I have to admit that some of these are tempting.

In other news, I want very much to be writing, and very little to be working on my homework for class on Saturday. *Siiiiigh*
rivendellrose: (NOOOO!!!!!!!)
My cat used my head as a DDR board all last night, so I apologize if this is not the most coherent LJ post I've ever made. :P

The LA Times would like you to know that contrary to the beliefs of the upcoming movie and the usual population of wackjobs on the internet, the world is *not* going to explode on December 20, 2012. And they're not the only ones: AstroSociety.org even has a handy little FAQ sheet about it.

What fascinates me most about this is how the story has grown. When I first heard of December 21, 2012, it was in the context of a video shown in my World Cultures class in high school, talking about the Mayan calendar. When you're sixteen, that sort of thing can seem pretty exciting! Later it came up again in college, in the same context. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was the same video. Anyway. I notice now that it's somehow acquired a link to the Sumerians (maybe some people figured the Mayans just weren't cool enough?) and a planet called Nibiru, made up by some 1970s nutjob... and a race of aliens called the Anunnaki? Huh. I think I read this book in high school. I don't remember being impressed then, either.

Among the questions handled by this lovely little pdf from AstroSociety is this: There are many photos and videos of Nibiru on the Internet. Isn’t that proof that it exists? In a word? No. Dude, if you're on the internet and you still haven't figured out that it is not wise to believe everything you see on it... please, step away from the computer. It's too much for you.

Why does the Mayan calendar say the world will end in 2012? I have heard that they have been pretty accurate in the past with other planetary predictions. Weeeeell, that depends on what you mean. Accurate in the sense of "yeah, they definitely knew how to predict eclipses, and that was damned impressive for that time!" or accurate in the sense of "THEY KNEW THE FUTURE!!!" In which the answer would be no.

And, for fun: Here's Phil Plait's take on the Planet X / Nibiru cult phenomenon - he's awesome, check him out.

Now, where does that leave all of us who know better than to think a fictional planet is going to end the world in a few years? Planning the biggest party in the world. ♥ I, personally, have intended to plan an End of The World party for the night of the 21st of December 2012 since high school, and I'm really looking forward to it. And for the cautious, hell, it's not like we can do anything about it if, by some chance, any of this really is true - so why not go out with a party? Anyway - save the date! You're all invited!

I apologize to everyone in my generalized age-cohort, who may have gotten That Damned Prince Song (tm) stuck in their head based off the title of this post. I have committed a horrible crime by referring to That Song, I admit. If it makes you feel any better, I'm sure that as soon as I don't have Sweeney Todd blaring in my ears, I will have That Song stuck in my head, too. Then I'll have to hum That One Kylie Minogue Song (tm) to get it out of my head, and that will be the source of untold torment for at least 24 hrs. On second thought, it's possible that the Catastrophic End of the World might actually be preferable to three years of "Can't Get You Out of My Mind," accompanied by that extremely ill-advised Flash video that Big Finish did to it. Many thanks (ha) to [livejournal.com profile] maymargaret for playing that dratted thing for me; you'll be happy to know that it still attacks me out of nowhere.
rivendellrose: (God?  What god?)
Of particular note to friends in Australia:

Church of Scientology Proposes Net Censorship in Australia.

Because if you can't convince people you're not a vicious, psychotic cult that ruins lives and rips apart families, why not just shut down the people who talk about it?
rivendellrose: (God?  What god?)
Apparently a movie about Charles Darwin is 'too controversial' for American audiences.

Fuck this shit. Can I have a new country, now? Please?

And in case that by itself wasn't enough to make your blood boil, here's a quote from the article:

Movieguide.org, an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as "a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder". His "half-baked theory" directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to "atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering", the site stated.

What. The fuck.

That said, why is it that "special screenings" have been set up for Christian groups even in the UK? It's a fucking movie, you fucking morons. It's a fucking movie about a person, not a documentary about his scientific work. Even if his theories were in some way controversial (which, um, no - not to anyone with a functioning brain and a third of an education they're not), it's a fucking movie.

...I just went from "sleepy comfy Sunday" to "raging bitch oh-god-my-blood-pressure" in the space of five minutes. :P
rivendellrose: (scully red)
Newsflash: The Telegraph's 'Exercise Makes You Fat' article that's been spinning all over the net wasn't accurate! Ben Goldacre takes on the real science in the above link. Big surprise that the Telegraph wouldn't quite have it right, and that everyone since has just been repeating their "findings" without a bit of independent thought. Direct quote from Ben's blog: "Prof Blundell says: “the Telegraph article was a complete distortion of the facts of our investigation, which showed that exercise is very effective for weight loss. They completely reversed the outcome of our study.”"

Also, Harriet Hall explains Why we shouldn't worry about men disappearing just yet, despite what certain popular media outlets (CBC, this time) would like you to think.

Lastly, for fun, "Aliens regret policy of only abducting lone weirdos. ♥

Personally, I'm just looking forward to the holiday weekend. It's been a long week. I hope all of you are well!
rivendellrose: (Default)
"Pure food obsession is latest eating disorder.

I'm all for eating good food - and I do agree that includes trying to avoid stuff with tons of artificial crap, because, hell, what does that shit taste like, anyway? And of course there are allergies and things to consider when you look at gluten and so on. But all this crap about your blood type determining what you should eat, or how raw food is the only way to go or whatever the latest trend is? Total bunk, and it's driving people nuts.

IMHO, moderation is the key in all these things.

...I say, having just finished a huge burrito. :D This working out in the morning thing has upped my appetite a bit.
rivendellrose: (scully red)
Sure, we all know that a lot of people who natter on about ghosts are full of shit, but did you know that ghosts can, in fact, haunt your ass?

It's true because someone on the internet says it is! The previous link is to a skeptic's comments on the article - I haven't read the article itself yet, because, to be honest, the grammatical errors and sheer insanity in the quotes alone were enough to make my poor little head ache. And anyway, tomorrow's our first day of getting up early to go to the gym. But don't worry, I fully intend to read the whole linked article sometime very soon, so that I can enjoy the full breadth of the nuttiness. I'm hoping it's really a parody or a joke, but... sadly, I have long since learned not to trust to hope on this kind of thing.

Incidentally - former inhabitants of Grimmauld Place! Didn't we have a running gag about ass-haunting or something like that? It seems... strangely familiar to me. In the same way as the crazy-ass romance novel in the wall. ♥

For everyone else - Grimmauld Place was the nickname for the house several friends and I lived in years ago. It was... a strange house. And strangely suited to the nickname.

And, for the record, I'm not saying that everybody who believes in ghosts is crazy. Just this woman who thinks her husband's ass is haunted. Because seriously.
rivendellrose: (scully red)
You have so got to be kidding me...

Found in my Gmail ads this morning: Quantum Jumping: The Inter-Dimensional Quest for a Better You. "Are You Ready to Jump Into Other Dimensions? Warning: For the True Seeker Only."

So... Are they banking on no one remembering Quantum Leap, or are they hoping it will boost their revenue? Because if the latter is a sound marketing system, I have a religious system based on a savior traveling the universe in a blue phonebox that I'd like to sell you...

And no, before you ask, they don't appear to mean this as fiction. Oh dear.
rivendellrose: (scully red)
You might have already heard of Skin Deep: The Cosmetics Safety Database. I ran across it a few years ago and never bothered to look up the stuff I use.

I finally did so a few weeks ago, and was shocked to discover that the foundation I've used for years, Neutrogena Healthy Skin in "Blushing Ivory," contains methylparaben, which, among other things, is a restricted substance in the EU. So I've skipped my usual foundation for the moment, buying something twice as expensive ($30) at Whole Foods... and now I'm being a good little skeptic and doing my research. Because, sure, Skin Deep says that stuff is dangerous... but who are they, and how dangerous is dangerous? They say it's linked with cancer... but, in general, it often seems like someone, somewhere is saying that every damned thing in the world is linked to cancer... probably because longer lifespans now mean that cancer is a whole hell of a lot more frequent than it's been in the past. So, what's the real deal here?

Additives, chemicals, and questions - how do you know whether something is really safe to put on your skin, anyway? And can a quick application of Google and skepticism help me figure out whether or not I should really be worried about this? )

Long story short, probably going back to my good old Neutrogena once this bottle of Zuzu foundation is empty. It doesn't cover as well, I'm not convinced that it's not partly to blame for a little bit of flare-up that my skin's been doing since I started wearing it, and, more to the point, it's $30 compared to the $13 I'm used to spending, for the dubious benefit of... not containing an anti-fungal that appears totally unlikely to hurt me.
rivendellrose: (seeress)
Some articles just leave you wondering why... why... well, I'm not even sure why what, exactly, just why. For instance: A bunch of people had a 'Fairy Congress' in Twisp, Washington on the summer solstice.

Now, I'm still pretty pantheist in my atheistic sort of way (...that make sense to me, though I suspect it may possibly be nonsense to the rest of the world - suffice to say that I never really thought of god as god when I believed in a god, so much as believing in the universe and the inherent holiness / awesomeness (in the oldest sense of the word) of life, so not calling it a deity any more doesn't do a lot to change the way I think about things) and I've always had a strong affection and affinity for the old stories of the Good Folk and so on. However.

After I got over giggling my head off about the mental image of a bunch of aging hippies dancing in fairy wings up in the mountains of my fair state, I suffered one of those moments that I've always felt marked out pagans who were in it for the cool 'magick' and gothy emo-ness of it all from the ones who, you know, had actually bothered to read a bit of mythology at some point.

'Good lord,' I thought - 'If those people really believed in fairies and knew what they were talking about in regards to fairy-lore... they would know that all of that was a fantastically bad idea.'

Since no one appears to have been transformed or stolen away, I think we, sadly, must mark this down as proof that the Good People either never existed, have left, or... never lived in Washington State to begin with? *Sigh*

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