res ipsa loquitur

famous torture experiment replicated

Researchers at Santa Clara University have replicated the findings of the famous Milgram experiment, where by using the trappings of authority they were able to get volunteers to administer torturing electrical shocks to innocent people. (The shocks were simulated, the victims actors.)

If you've never heard of the Milgram experiment, you should stop and read about it right now. Unless you're in a burning building, there is nothing more important you can do - without this understanding of authority, little in the world of human action makes sense.

Is this tendency to blindly follow authority just a laboratory artifact? Sure, there's Abu Ghraib, but maybe that was the result of military conditioning.

Sadly, the case of the fast-food joint strip searches demonstrates that very ordinary people will do horribile things on command of authority, in real life without any special training or conditioning. In over 70 cases spanning a decade, a caller was able to manipulate managers and employees of fast food restaurant into performing strip searches and other abusive acts merely by posing as a cop over the telephone.

And this, my friends, is why we must question authority. Make a habit of it.

RIP Majel Barrett Rodenberry

Majel Barrett Roddenberry has left us.

Majel played the Enterprise's first officer in the original pilot "The Cage" (later recut with a frame story as the TOS two-parter "The Menagerie"), then Nurse Christine Chapel in the original series. Then in TNG she played Councilor Troi's mother, Lwaxana, as well as providing the ubiquitous computer voice in TNG and later series. In fact, she has recenntly finished voice work on the forthcoming Trek movie.

She and Gene Roddenberry married two months after the final episode of Star Trek was aired. (According to Memory Alpha, they were in Japan and has a "Shinto-Buddhist" wedding!)

After Gene's death she did a lot to preserve the Star Trek legacy, and also worked as executive producer on two shows based on ideas from his archives, Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda.

Obama victory means more vampire flicks?

This story from SignOnSanDiego.com claims that during Democratic administrations, vampire movies are popular, while GOP ascendence corresponds with more zombie flicks:

“Democrats, who want to redistribute wealth to 'Main Street,' fear the Wall Street vampires who bleed the nation dry,” Newitz argued, noting that Dracula and his ilk arose from the aristocracy. “Republicans fear a revolt of the poor and disenfranchised, dressed in rags and coming to the White House to eat their brains.”

Or perhaps the bloodsuckers' latest incarnation, as less-threatening undead citizens, reflects a more inclusive politics. “Suddenly,” said Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, “the vampires have become people just like us.”

“After the upsurge of zombie films that symptomized the Bush era, the latest re-investment in vampirism signals hopefulness,” said Larry Rickels, a UC Santa Barbara professor of German and comparative literature.

Human Rights.

I get some interesting correspondence sometimes. This was sent in through the "send a story" link above. It's such unintentional poetry that I have to share. I've just altered the e-mail address to protect against spam-bots, otherwise it's unedited.

Merry Christmas to you both, also This Famous Vincent Bugliosi. Since I don't know, don't think, if I can count on The Bible to my any more of my 'chosen' business, '': a word, I'm not satisfied with, I'm contrarily happy & maybe under certain obligation to let you receive this my labor offer, i.e. for us all three & maybe someone else to start working as PIs to be, whatever may be & is our reason for it, so that I can of course tell & e.g. help us all find out & maybe a good answer to, what's our just as good future, now that God & I etc. are still through with Each Other, greetings & to be continued from Yours, faithfully, 'J.A.,' arentved@xx.xxx, I hope The Buddhism means something to you.

Shooting at the heavens

Accidental poetic image: "During World War II, aircraft spotters sometimes mistook Venus for an enemy airplane. There were even cases in which Venus drew antiaircraft fire."

I'm too sleepy right now to figure out or explain why that's beautiful and poetic and pathetic all at the same time. But it is.

Anyway, Venus and Jupiter will appear very close to the crescent moon Monday night. If your sky is clear, take a look.

Evangelical teens say they believe in abstainance, but are more sexually active (wish I'd known then...)

Margaret Talbot reports in The New Yorker on how religion influences what evangelical teens say they think about sex - and who it impoacts what they actually do:

Regnerus argues that religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and that this gap is especially wide among teen-agers who identify themselves as evangelical. The vast majority of white evangelical adolescents—seventy-four per cent—say that they believe in abstaining from sex before marriage... evangelical virgins are the least likely to anticipate that sex will be pleasurable, and the most likely to believe that having sex will cause their partners to lose respect for them. (Jews most often cite pleasure as a reason to have sex, and say that an unplanned pregnancy would be an embarrassment.) But, according to Add Health data, evangelical teen-agers are more sexually active than Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews. On average, white evangelical Protestants make their “sexual début”—to use the festive term of social-science researchers—shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.

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