Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Flotsam from the hypnagogic state

Food rules: There's clam chowder and chicken noodle soup. Why can't there be clam noodle soup and chicken chowder? Is there a law against it?

The senses: I have no idea why we speak of five senses, there are at least 7 and arguably a few more. In addition to the classic sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell, there is obviously balance. We are always aware of the orientation of the head with respect to gravity, due to a discrete sensory system consisting of little stones dangling in fluid filled loops connected to the inner ear. When this sense goes awry, the effects are devastating. Then there is proprioception. We are always aware of the state of flexure of our joints and the positioning of our body parts, again due to a discrete sensory system consisting of separate receptors in the joints. So that's 7, without a doubt.

"Touch" is really four different senses: pressure, heat, cold and pain. These each have discrete receptors and independent channels to the brain. Obviously we can feel the warmth of the sun, for example, or the chill inside the freezer, or the pain of an old injury, without the perception that anything is touching us. Heat and cold receptors can also be activated chemically (as by capsicum and menthol), so we can even feel heat and cold simultaneously. So if touch is really four senses, that's 10.

Finally, even with our eyes closed, we can sense the presence of an object close to, but not touching, the area between our eyebrows. This is particularly pronounced with pointed metallic objects. Try it. That's 11.

Alter ego?The cartoon character Popeye has two foils, one a big hairy bully named Brutus, the other a big hairy bully named Bluto. Is there any significant difference between these characters? Why do they both exist? (They never appear in the same episode, as far as I know.)

Dress Code: Why do nerds fasten the top shirt button without a tie, and wear pants that are too short? What developmental pathway could possibly lead simultaneously to social ineptitude and a fascination with asocial intellectual challenges, and compulsive top shirt-buttoning and pants shortening? (It is possible to do up the top shirt button non-nerdily, but the shirt must be specifically designed for it.)

Jihadoofusses: Excuse me, jihadoofi. (I always have trouble with the Latin plurals.) It's disturbing, of course, that there are depraved people out there who want to kill large numbers of their fellow humans at random, but since the tragic Madrid and London train bombings, the ones who have tried it in the so-called western countries are all candidates for supported housing. The clowns at Fort Dix got caught because they went to the CVS to copy their jihadi propaganda video onto DVD. The wacko plot to blow up fuel tanks at Kennedy Airport, in spite of the breathless hype of the authorities, was completely nonsensical. The worst they could have done was start a fire that probably would have been put out by the safety systems in 20 seconds, but they lacked any means even to do that. I won't even go into the Seeds of David, or the guy who wanted to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch, or the payasos who thought that puncturing the Lincoln Tunnel would somehow flood Manhattan.

Now we have these guys in the UK. Again, contrary to what the authorities have claimed, their car bombs bore no resemblance whatsoever to the devices used in Iraq, and would not have caused carnage of any sort. Gasoline does not explode, it burns. In so doing, it does not propel any nearby nails as shrapnel. The propane tanks in the cars might have exploded in a gasoline fire, but probably would not have, and even if they did, it would not have been a big deal. We saw the truth of all this when the same guys drove a similarly rigged vehicle into the airport terminal in Glasgow and managed only to set themselves on fire. If this is the general character of the existential threat to Christian civilization, I'm not losing any sleep.

Why does the hypnagogic state exist?

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