Daniel Dennett is thankful

to his heart surgeon.

Carnival of the Elitist Bastards VI

Check out this classical post: Carnival of the Elitist Bastards 6.

Odysseus deriding the cyclops Polyphemus

Odysseus deriding the cyclops Polyphemus

“A Modest Proposition” from Digital Cuttlefish

Digital Cuttlefish logo, smallThe Digital Cuttlefish is on form with a new poem about California’s Proposition 8 for the upcoming U.S. election. Proposition 8 proposes taking away the right of same-sex couples to be married:

It’s a simple little proposition, Proposition Eight:
All we ask is that you join us, as we all discriminate!

Risk of suicide linked to changes in the brain

Is depression a cause or an effect? We know that brain stimulation increases the number of neurons. We know that biochemical changes accompany depression. Now, we’re finding that a change in gene expression occurs in the brains of people who commit suicide.

Researchers analysed brain tissue from 20 dead people and, in those who killed themselves, they found a higher rate of a process that affects behaviour.

Writing in Biological Psychiatry, they said it appeared environmental factors played a part in the changes….

The researchers, from the University of Western Ontario, Carleton University and University of Ottawa, analysed tissue from 10 people who had a serious depressive disorder and had committed suicide and 10 who had died suddenly from other causes, such as a heart attack.

They found that the DNA in the suicide group was being chemically modified by a process normally involved in regulating cell development, called methylation.

It is methylation which shuts down the unwanted genes in a cell – so the necessary genes are expressed to make a cell a skin cell rather than, for example, a heart cell.

The rate of methylation in the suicide brains was almost 10 times that of the other group, and the gene that was being shut down was a chemical message receptor that plays a major role in regulating behaviour.

In the paper, the researchers suggest this reprogramming could contribute to the “protracted and recurrent nature of major depressive disorder”.

Previous research has suggested that changes to the methylation process can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors called epigenetics.

Dr Michael Poulter, who led the research, said: “The whole idea that the genome is so malleable in the brain is surprising, because brain cells don’t divide.

“You get dealt your neurons at the start of life, so the idea that there are still epigenetic mechanisms going on is pretty unusual.”

He said the findings of the study opened up a new avenue of research and potential therapies for depression and suicidal tendencies.

John Krystal, the editor of Biological Psychiatry, said: “This is exciting new evidence that genetic and environmental factors may interact to produce specific and long-lasting modifications in brain circuits.

“Further, these modifications may shape the course of one’s life in extremely important ways, including increasing the risk for major depressive disorder and perhaps suicide.”

Highway 97 in BC closed by danger of rock slide

That's not a path, it's a crack!

That is not a path, it is a crack in the hillside!

The main highway in the Okanagan Valley, Highway 97, has been closed north of Summerland. It will stay closed until at least Monday while geotechnical engineers examine a dangerous slab of rock poised above the highway. A crack above the rock widened about 10 cm in the last few days. The crack was noticed by workers who were widening the highway.

Geotechnical engineers say the fissure is several feet wide and is around 30 feet deep. Rough estimates are that around 300,000 cubic metres of rock are moving on the face.

The shutdown severs the main artery between Penticton to Kelowna in B.C.’s Okanagan region.

Arthon Construction… estimates it will take at least a few days to repair the face….

Northbound motorists are advised to detour via Highway 33 or Highway 3. The alternate route will add at least a few hours to the trip.

If it’s granite, that’s around two million tonnes of rock.

The photo below must be taken from the north because the lake is on on the left.

Lake Okanagan, looking south along Highway 97

Lake Okanagan, looking south along Highway 97

Palin’s phonetic speech

I’m all for phonetic spelling, but a vice-presidential candidate shouldn’t need it. The Toronto Star printed the transcript of Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech, just as it was prepared for delivery. Hidden deep inside it was this little gem:

Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we’re going to lay more pipelines … build more new-clear plants

and again:

Terrorist states are seeking new-clear weapons without delay … he wants to meet them without preconditions.

It’s clear that the speech writers didn’t trust her to pronounce “nuclear.”

She also can’t seem to tell a precondition from preparation.

Monorail cat – more inclusive

cat
more animals

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