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Archive for June, 2016

 

As a child, the 19th-century the English poet, John Clare, desired to walk to the edge of the horizon to find new worlds beyond. He wanted, he said, to walk all the way out of his knowledge.

But in the last two decades, neuroscience has begun to catch up with the idea of our ancients : a sound mind flourishes in a healthy body. Thales and Juvenal are not something consigned to the shelves for dust to gather but are relevant to us even this day. Their ideas are not gathered from musty halls of an ivory tower but in the midst of a jostling crowd now it could be a Marathon Run. That reminds me the mathematical genius Alan Turing was the Marathon man who could run in 2.4 hours. There is a strong link between exercise and intelligence. While the studies unite in telling us that running will makes us smarter, it is only partly true. The process is more complicated and reveals more about the wonderful complexities of both the human body and its evolution. Although the science might be helping us to understand how the mechanisms work, an important question remains: why does running make us smarter?

Two studies, one published in Cell Metabolism by Finnish researchers in Feb. and June, have expanded our understanding of the mechanisms involved in running and the ways that it enhances memory and cognition. Before these, it was understood that exercise induced a process called neurogenesis (where new brain cells are created) in a part of the brain involved in memory formation and spatial navigation, known as the hippocampus.

While intense exercise will create brain cells, they are basically stem cells waiting to be put to use. Exercise doesn’t create new knowledge; rather, it gives you the mental equivalent of a sharpened pencil and clean sheet of paper. It prepares you for learning, but you have to actively do some learning yourself, too. Integrating exercise into your working or studying day would seem like a sensible option, if this particular benefit is of interest to you.

I think that what these discoveries about running and improving cognitive abilities tell us is that the hunter-gatherers of prehistory had to have the ability to outrun theirs.

We are slow in a sprint compared to that of a cheetah but we can chase down almost any animal on the planet to the point of exhaustion over longer distances. It is due to persistence hunting as persistent as Captain Ahab in Melville classic Moby Dick. Hunting was a risky activity because it required hunters to leave behind the places they knew in the determined pursuit of prey. With no map-making technologies, the navigational skills of the brain had to step up and do all the work. So those people who adapted this brain cell growth response to distance running were more likely to find their way back to their tribe, and consequently, to survive.

The growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus and the enhancement of spatial memory that is brought on by endurance running is basically an evolutionary safety net for when you have outrun your knowledge, when you have run so far that you no longer know where you are and you need to learn, fast. It is a mechanism that makes information uptake easiest when historically you might have been tired, lost, and at your most vulnerable.

I know what I have written with some hardship what with convalescing from a bout of pneumonia and other assorted evils of old age, is sound but I do not intend to practice what I preach. Out running and expanding your limits of knowledge works well to young bucks but not for me.

(ack: the Conversation-28 Feb.,2016/

Author of ‘Footnotes: How Running Makes us Human’)

benny

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There exists an uneasy alliance between science and politics. When governments adopt certain policies they seek an ideological basis and it has its uses to give them an air of credibility and convince the world that they are the vehicles for progress whichever way you may interpret the term. On looking back however we find such mixture without exception tends to create monsters instead. Firstly ideology of politics adopting latest advances in technology is from above. There may be several scientific advisors in the panel the government inducts in order to formulate a policy but politics shall in the end determine the course. Look at the ideology of “eugenics” to describe the modern concept of improving the quality of human beings born into the world, It was Francis Galton’s brain child who however borrowed his half-cousin Charles Darwin‘s theory of evolution, which sought to explain the development of plant and animal species, and desired to apply it to humans. Galton believed that desirable traits were hereditary based on biographical studies; Darwin strongly disagreed with his interpretation of the book. In 1883, one year after Darwin’s death, Galton gave his research a name: eugenics. Throughout its recent history, eugenics has remained a controversial concept. Eugenic policies were first implemented in the early 1900s in the United States. It has roots in France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Later, in the 1920s and 30s, the eugenic policy of sterilizing certain mental patients was implemented in other countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Japan and Sweden.

The scientific reputation of eugenics started to decline in the 1930s, a time when Ernst Rüdin used eugenics as a justification for the racial policies of Nazi Germany. I shall cite another:

In the mid-19th Century, it was common economic wisdom that government intervention in famines was unnecessary and even harmful. The market would restore a proper balance. Any excess deaths, according to Malthusian principles, were nature’s way of responding to overpopulation.

This logic had been used with devastating effect two decades beforehand in Ireland, where the government in Britain had, for the most part, decided that no relief was the best relief.

 

The Great Famine in Ireland began as a natural catastrophe of extraordinary magnitude, but its effects were severely worsened by the actions and inactions of the Whig government, headed by Lord John Russell in the crucial years from 1846 to 1852.

Altogether, about a million people in Ireland are reliably estimated to have died of starvation and epidemic disease between 1846 and 1851, and some two million emigrated in a period of a little more than a decade (1845-55). Comparison with other modern and contemporary famines establishes beyond any doubt that the Irish famine of the late 1840s, which killed nearly one-eighth of the entire population, was proportionally much more destructive of human life than the vast majority of famines in modern times.

The government might have prohibited the export of grain from Ireland, especially during the winter of 1846-47 and early in the following spring, when there was little food in the country and before large supplies of foreign grain began to arrive. Once there was sufficient food in the country (imported Indian corn or maize), from perhaps the beginning of 1848, the government could have taken steps to ensure that this imported food was distributed to those in greatest need. Second, the government could have continued its so-called soup-kitchen scheme for a much longer time. It was in effect for only about six months, from March to September 1847. As many as three million people were fed daily at the peak of this scheme in July 1847. The scheme was remarkably inexpensive and effective. It should not have been dismantled after only six months and in spite of the enormous harvest deficiency of 1847.

Third, the wages that the government paid on its vast but short-lived public works in the winter of 1846-47 needed to be much higher if those toiling on the public works were going to be able to afford the greatly inflated price of food. Fourth, the poor-law system of providing relief, either within workhouses or outside them, a system that served as virtually the only form of public assistance from the autumn of 1847 onwards, needed to be much less restrictive. All sorts of obstacles were placed in the way, or allowed to stand in the way, of generous relief to those in need of food. This was done in a horribly misguided effort to keep expenses down and to promote greater self-reliance and self-exertion among the Irish poor. (The Irish Famine- By Jim Donnelly/BBC history)

Despite of being aware of consequences the British government 150 years ago let Orissa suffer a similar catastrophe. Famine, while no stranger to the subcontinent, increased in frequency and deadliness with the advent of British colonial rule. As a background to this we need to understand how the East India Company helped kill off India’s once-robust textile industries, pushing more and more people into agriculture. This, in turn, made the Indian economy much more dependent on the whims of seasonal monsoons.

One hundred and fifty years ago, as is the case with today’s drought, a weak monsoon appeared as the first ill omen.

In modern-day Orissa state, the worst hit region, one out of every three people perished, a mortality rate far more staggering than that caused by the Irish Potato Famine. Yet the Orissa famine killed over a million people in eastern India.

On a flying visit to Orissa in February 1866, Cecil Beadon, the colonial governor of Bengal (which then included Orissa), staked out a similar position. “Such visitations of providence as these no government can do much either to prevent or alleviate,” he pronounced.

‘Too late, too rotten’

Regulating the skyrocketing grain prices would risk tampering with the natural laws of economics. “If I were to attempt to do this,” the governor said, “I should consider myself no better than a dacoit or thief.” With that, Mr Beadon deserted his emaciated subjects in Orissa and returned to Kolkata (Calcutta) and busied himself with quashing privately funded relief efforts.

In May 1866, it was no longer easy to ignore the mounting catastrophe in Orissa. British administrators in Cuttack found their troops and police officers starving. The remaining inhabitants of Puri were carving out trenches in which to pile the dead. “For miles round you heard their yell for food,” commented one observer. The Orissa famine also became an important turning point in India’s political development, stimulating nationalist discussions on Indian poverty. Faint echoes of these debates still resonate today amid drought-relief efforts.

 

Malthusian principle dictates war as a necessary means to control all unequal demands of population explosion in the face of dwindling food reserves. Nature must have had her last laugh at the British Imperial pretensions by leading them down the primrose path of colonialism and two great wars gave their comeuppance at last.

Ack: (Viewpoint: How British let one million Indians die in famine By Dinyar Patel

/11 June,2016; wikipedia-eugenics)

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“I am the greatest,” Mohammad Ali said not once so many times, but then who could doubt a man who won the World Heavyweight Championship three times?

His outspoken support for civil rights endeared him to millions of people across the world.

He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, on 17 January 1942, the son of a sign painter. He was named after a prominent 19th Century abolitionist.

His father painted only signs but his son put his name, up there, as assuredly as stars come out at night to dazzle us.

Hang up your gloves with the rest,-

By Mintaka the belt ‘mong triple Orion;

You outgrew mean men and laws of the test,-

Crow has his color but you have your talon!

Evermore be at your rest from calumny of rooks.

benny

 

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Cincinnatti Blues ©

 

She is watching by her high fence,

Harambe, with deep, deep blue eyes

She is sporting a tinted glass, all blue:

‘Keep a big ape, have free laff

It brings gawks who will pay your bill’.

Cincinnati! Cincinnatti!

How is it, that you let go

Harambe poor big ape?

 

Apes aren’t common as fruits on flatfeet:

Cops are apt to play to the crowd

Than see who is on the right;

Cincinnati! Cincinnatti!

How is it, that you let go

Harambe poor big ape?

No small thanks you let her keep the goggle

A fair exchange for the lead that tore her heart!

benny

Note: Harambe is a male gorilla but could his life have been saved? Life is a life; Gorilla is a gorilla but the million dollar question is this: is life of gorilla of less value than divisive vituperative enemy to peace, Trump?  The gawks who scream to high heavens now want the poor mother lose her job! What hypocrisy!

A four year kid as usual is the case, knows how to strike for freedom, escaping the tight leash of his parent; This freedom in this case brought into a close encounter with a Gorilla in its cramped confines of the zoo.  All would have ended well if the crowd  behaved well. They wanted their money worth of excitement, and is as much culprit as the officer who took him down with a single bullet. The bystanders sent gentle Harambe in panic. How come nobody thinks he or she is equally at fault?-b

 

 

 

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