Saturday, August 9, 2014

Science Links, 8/9/14.

Let's clear the tabs and post some links.

Pot and teens, nuclear energy, brain-mimicking chips, animals are sentient(?), and a vaccine study withdrawn.

Article: Pot studies suggest regular use is bad for teen brains
A close look at the under-25 age group shows cognitive decline, poor attention and memory and decreased IQ among those who regularly smoke pot, defined as at least once a week, says Krista Lisdahl, director of the brain-imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"The adolescent period is a sensitive period of neurodevelopment," she says.

Overall, marijuana use begins in the later teens, around age 16 or 17, peaks in the early 20s and drops off between ages 23 and 25, says Lisdahl.

"Is it a coincidence that use significantly goes down at 25 when the brain is at its full maturation? I don't think so," she says.
Colloquially, this has been know for years. "Why do think that call it 'dope'?" was often used on anti-drug posters for years.

The fact that it hits young people hardest is not a surprise either. Brains begin developing in the womb and do not complete development until adulthood.

There is a lovely piece of circular reasoning exposed in the article. Areas of Montana that voted for the legalization of pot were also the areas with the highest usage of pot. The reasoning?
"People don't perceive it as a very harmful substance, and these community norms translate to teens," she says. "From the teen study, they do reference legalization: 'If it was that bad a drug, they wouldn't be trying to legalize it.' "
Older studies on the effects of pot may be invalid because the levels of the active ingredient is much higher today that it was in past.

Article: Obama’s Energy Guru on America’s Nuclear Future

Interview with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Discussion of small, modular nuclear plants. Also energy use efficiency, gas, oil, coal, wind and solar. No mention of how much the latter two are directly subsidized.

Article: Brain-inspired chip fits 1m [million] 'neurons' on postage stamp

Each "neuron" is attached to 256 others (in human brains, each neuron is attached to 10,000 each).

Traditional programming will not work, so new programming will have to be done.

These chips, and ones like them, are being used for visual recognition. This is something the brain does very well, but traditional computers do poorly.

Article: Quebec to amend Civil Code to better protect animals from abuse
Once the Civil Code is amended, cats, dogs and other animals will no longer be considered as "personal property" but as living, "sentient" creatures. That is a formula that has already been adopted by several European countries.
Sentient: able to feel, see, hear, smell, or taste. Aware.

No one would argue that animals are able to "fee, see, hear, smell, or taste." However, are animals actually "aware?" So what is the definition of sentient in the legislation?
While recognizing the sentient nature of an animal will not give it the same type of rights as for humans, it will increase the obligations on owners and breeders toward their charges.

Paradis noted that there is a demand for better treatment of animals and it has already been heard in Europe.

"We're seeing how things are evolving in Europe on agricultural farms — there are larger cages for pigs and more space for chickens. If you're not part of this movement, you're going to be excluded."

"We're telling people, 'you can no longer treat animals as inert, property with no emotions,'" she said. "This will force people to be aware, it will force the courts to act. There will be change, that's for sure."
This is not just about pets, this legislation will also cover livestock animals. 
Once the Civil Code has been updated, "Quebec judges will have no choice, in my opinion, to be a bit more coercive," she said.

"Coercive." A nice reminder that government is, by nature, coercive.

Article: Scientists retract narcolepsy study linked to GSK vaccine
...the journal said the researchers, led by Emmanuel Mignot, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford University, had asked that the paper be retracted "because they were unable to replicate some of the results reported in the paper".
Research needs to be able to be replicated in order to be considered valid by scientists.

Yet, another study linking a vaccine with a brain disorder that was shown to be invalid.

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