“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”

(via bar-bi-tur-ates)

  10/09/14 at 02:04pm

Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s passion for looking, not thinking, New Statesman (August 15, 2012) ›

The notion of “family resemblances” is crucial to Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. It plays a critical role in his attempt to unseat the picture that he regards as the root of most philosophical confusion, namely the “Augustinian picture of meaning”. Philosophical Investigations begins with a passage not from a work of philosophy but from an autobiography: St Augustine’s Confessions. In it, Augustine describes how he learned to speak. “When [my elders] named some object,” he says, “I grasped that the thing was called by the sound they uttered”; thus, hearing words used in this way repeatedly, he “gradually learned to understand what objects they signified”.

This passage, Wittgenstein says, gives us “a particular picture of the essence of human language”, a picture that represents meaning as a relationship between a word and an object. This picture is relatively harmless when we confine ourselves to such words as “table”, “chair” and so on but when applied to the more complex notions that philosophers consider – the mind, the soul, justice, truth, meaning – it leads to confusion. We ask, “What is the mind?” and expect the answer to take the form of identifying some thing that the word “mind” refers to.

To overcome this, Wittgenstein suggests we understand words as picking out not some single thing but a group of things that need not have anything in common. Rather, like members of the same family, they might have a series of similarities and dissimilarities that overlap and criss-cross in various complicated ways. Some Wittgensteins (such as Ludwig and his sisters) might have the same nose, the same mouth, the same eyes but, say, different foreheads. There need not be one thing that all members of the family have in common. Likewise, there need not be any one thing that all instances of the word “truth” have in common. The philosophical task of looking for the essence of truth, then, is unending, not because it is deep but because it is an example of the ways in which we can be captured by a picture.

Thus, at the heart of Wittgenstein’s philosophy is what he calls “the understanding which consists in ‘seeing connections’ ”. Here “seeing” is meant not metaphorically, but literally. That is why, towards the end of the book, he devotes so much space to a discussion of the phenomenon of seeing ambiguous figures such as the duck-rabbit. When we “change the aspect” under which we look at the picture, seeing it now as a duck, now as a rabbit, what changes? Not the picture, for that stays the same. What changes is not any object but rather the way we look at it; we see it differently, just as we see a face differently when we look at it, first as an expression of happiness and then as an expression of pride.

“You don’t take enough notice of people’s faces,” Wittgenstein once admonished his friend Maurice Drury. “It is a fault you ought to correct.” …

  10/09/14 at 02:03pm

Nicole Gray, Salud: NHS to endorse daily pill for heavy drinkers in England, BioPharmaDive (October 2, 2014) ›

  10/08/14 at 10:49pm

Lifeboat (1944)

  10/08/14 at 10:48pm

It’s a source of great sadness to me that my father died without having seen me do anything worthwhile. He was constantly having to make excuses for me.

Daniel Day-Lewis
  10/08/14 at 10:45pm

Emily Mendenhall, Rebecca A. Seligman, Alicia Fernandez, and Elizabeth A. Jacobs, Speaking through Diabetes, 24 Med Anthro Quarterly 220 (2010) ›


The disproportionate prevalence of Type II diabetes mellitus among the poor suggests that, in addition to lifestyle factors, social suffering may be embodied in diabetes. In this article, we examine the role of social distress in narratives collected from 26 Mexican Americans seeking diabetes care at a public hospital in Chicago. By linking social suffering with diabetes causality, we argue that our participants use diabetes much like an “idiom of distress,” leveraging somatic symptoms to disclose psychological distress. We argue that diabetes figures both as an expression and a product of social suffering in these narratives. We propose that increasingly prevalent chronic diseases, like diabetes, which are closely associated with social disparities in health, may function as idioms for psychological and social suffering. Such findings inform the anthropological literature and emerging clinical and scientific discourse about the roles of stress and psychological distress in diabetes experiences among underserved groups.

  10/08/14 at 10:44pm

"On Aiming for Moral Mediocrity," The Splintered Mind (October 2, 2014) ›

People seem to calibrate toward moral mediocrity. If we see, or are told, that many people violate a norm, that seems to increase the rate at which we ourselves violate the norm (e.g., Cialdini et al 2006; Keizer et al. 2011 [though see here]). Commit a good deed or think of yourself in a good light, and shortly thereafter you might be more likely to commit a bad deed, or less likely to commit another good deed, than you otherwise would have been (“moral self-licensing”; though see here). Susan Wolf tells us that people do not, and should not, aim to be moral saints. But maybe she understates the case: Not only do people not want to be saints, they don’t even want to be particularly good.

  10/04/14 at 08:07am

Roscoe Holcomb, “I Ain’t Got No Sugar Baby Now,” An Untamed Sense of Control

  10/02/14 at 11:38pm

Derek Lowe, Weirdly, Tramadol Is Not a Natural Product After All, In the Pipeline (September 15, 2014)

Last year I mentioned a paper that described the well-known drug tramadol as a natural product, isolated from a species of tree in Cameroon. Rather high concentrations were found in the root bark, and the evidence looked solid that the compound was indeed being made biochemically.

Well, thanks to chem-blogger Quintus (and a mention on Twitter by See Arr Oh), I’ve learned that this story has taken a very surprising turn. This new paper in Ang. Chem. investigates the situation more closely. And you can indeed extract tramadol rom the stated species - there’s no doubt about it. You can extract three of its major metabolites, too - its three major mammalian metabolites. That’s because, as it turns out, tramadol is given extensively to cattle (!) in the region, so much of it that the parent drug and its metabolites have soaked into the soil enough for the African peach/pincushion tree to have taken it up into its roots. I didn’t see that one coming.

The farmers apparently take the drug themselves, at pretty high dosages, saying that it allows them to work without getting tired. Who decided it would be a good thing to feed to the cows, no one knows, but the farmers feel that it benefits them, too. So in that specific region in the north of Cameroon, tramadol contamination in the farming areas has built up to the point that you can extract the stuff from tree roots. Good grief. In southern Cameroon, the concentrations are orders of magnitude lower, and neither the farmers nor the cattle have adopted the tramadol-soaked lifestyle. Natural products chemistry is getting trickier all the time.

Gavin Mueller, Liberalism and Gentrification, Jacobin Magazine (September 26, 2014) ›

Gentrification isn’t a cultural phenomenon — it’s a class offensive by powerful capitalists.

  10/02/14 at 11:28pm