Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Form Constant

A form constant is one of several geometric patterns which are recurringly observed during hallucinations and altered states of consciousness.

In 1926, Heinrich Kluver systematically studied the effects of mescaline (peyote) on the subjective experiences of its users. In addition to producing hallucinations characterized by bright, "highly saturated" colors and vivid imagery, Kluver noticed that mescaline produced recurring geometric patterns in different users.

He called these patterns 'form constants' and categorized four types: lattices (including honeycombs, checkerboards, and triangles), cobwebs, tunnels, and spirals.

Many of these shapes have an intriguing similarity to much of the imagery in Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur.

Kluver's form constants have appeared in other drug-induced and naturally-occurring hallucinations, suggesting a similar physiological process underlying hallucinations with different triggers. Kluver's form constants also appear in near-death experiences and hallucinations of those with synesthesia.

Other triggers include psychological stress, or threshold consciousness, hypnagogia, insulin hypoglycemia, the delirium of fever, epilepsy, psychotic episodes, advanced syphilis, sensory deprivation, photostimulation, electrical stimulation, crystal gazing, migraine headaches, dizziness and a variety of drug-induced intoxications.

These shapes may appear on their own or with eyes shut in the form of phosphenes, especially when exerting pressure against the closed eyelid.

Author Michael Moorcock once observed in print that the shapes he had seen during his migraine headaches resembled exactly the form of fractals. The diversity of conditions that provoke such patterns suggests that form constants reflect some fundamental property of visual perception.
The practice of the ancient art of divination may suggest a deliberate practice of cultivating form constant imagery and applying the brain's intuitive faculty and/or imagination to derive some meaning from transient visual phenomena.

Many religions represent geometric and/or repetitive forms as indicative of the divine, particularly in a starburst pattern.

Examples include mandalas, yantras (both of these specifically designed to evoke certain mental states), Islamic art and cathedral architecture.

Psychedelic art, inspired at least in part by psychedelic substances, frequently includes repetitive abstract forms and patterns such as tessellation, Moire patterns or patterns similar to those created by paper marbling, and, in later years, fractals. The op art genre of visual art created art using bold imagery very like that of form constants.

Exploding head syndrome

Exploding head syndrome is a condition first reported by a British physician in 1988 that causes the sufferer to occasionally experience a tremendously loud noise as if from within his or her own head, usually described as an explosion, roar or a ringing noise.

This usually occurs within an hour or two of falling asleep, but is not the result of a dream and can happen during the day as well.

Although perceived as tremendously loud, the noise is usually not accompanied by pain. Attacks appear to increase and decrease in frequency over time, with several attacks occurring in a space of days or weeks followed by months of remission.

Sufferers often feel a sense of fear and anxiety after an attack, accompanied by elevated heart rate. Attacks are also often accompanied by perceived flashes of light (when perceived on their own, known as a "visual sleep start") or difficulty in breathing.

The condition is also known as "auditory sleep starts." It is not thought to be dangerous, although it is sometimes distressing to experience.

Note that exploding head syndrome does not involve the head actually exploding.

The cause of exploding head syndrome is not known, though some physicians have reported a correlation with stress or extreme fatigue. The condition may develop at any time during life and women are slightly more likely to suffer from it than men. Attacks can be one-time events, or can recur.

The mechanism is also not known, though possibilities have been suggested; one is that it may be the result of a sudden movement of a middle ear component or of the eustachian tube, another is that it may be the result of a form of minor seizure in the temporal lobe where the nerve cells for hearing are located.

Electroencephalograms recorded during actual attacks show unusual activity only in some sufferers, and have ruled out epileptic seizures as a cause.

Hypnic jerk

A hypnic or hypnagogic jerk is an involuntary muscle twitch (commonly known as a myoclonic twitch) which occurs during the transition into hypnagogia.

It is often described as an electric shock or falling sensation, and can cause movement of the body in bed. Hypnic jerks are experienced by most people, especially when exhausted or sleeping uncomfortably.

Hypnic jerks are usually felt once or twice per night. More regular, and usually less intense, hypnic jerks often occur during normal sleep. In extreme cases, this may be classified as a disorder called periodic limb movement. The person with the disorder will usually sleep through the events.

Although the ultimate cause of the hypnic jerk is unknown, a common hypothesis is that the brain misinterprets relaxation as the sleeping primate falling out of a tree.

When a subject is deprived of sleep and is trying to fight sleep, hypnic jerks can occur more often. This normally happens to subjects who have deprived themselves of sleep for longer than 24 hours, or to those who have recently woken up from insufficient amounts of sleep.

False Awakening

A false awakening is an event in which someone dreams they have awoken from sleep. This illusion of having awakened is very convincing to the person. After a false awakening, people will usually dream of performing daily morning rituals, believing they have truly awakened.

A dream in which a false awakening takes place is sometimes colloquially referred to as a "double dream", or a "dream within a dream".

Relationship to lucidity

A false awakening may occur either following an ordinary dream or following a lucid dream (one in which the dreamer has been aware of dreaming). Particularly if the false awakening follows a lucid dream, the false awakening may turn into a ‘pre-lucid dream', that is, one in which the dreamer may start to wonder if they're really awake and may or may not come to the correct conclusion.

Relationship to simulated reality

A false awakening has significance to the simulation hypothesis which states that what we perceive as "true" reality is in truth an illusion as evidenced by our minds' inability to distinguish between reality and dreams. Therefore, advocates of the simulation hypothesis argue that the probability of our "true" reality being a simulated reality is affected by the prevalence of false awakenings.

Realism and unrealism

Certain aspects of life may be dramatized, or out of place in false awakenings. Things may seem wrong: details, like the painting on a wall, not being able to talk or difficulty reading (purportedly reading in lucid dreams is often difficult or impossible.

In some experiences, the human senses are heightened, or changed. For instance, one may be able to see things in greater detail, or lesser detail, or one may feel an intense burst of fear and anxiety, or possibly pleasure.


Because the dreamer is still dreaming after a false awakening, it is possible for there to be more than one false awakening in a single dream.

Often, dreamers will seem to have awakened, begin eating breakfast, brushing teeth, and so on and then find themselves back in bed, begin daily morning rituals, believe that they have awakened, and so forth.

The French psychologist Yves Delage reported an experience of his own of this kind, in which he experienced four successive false awakenings. The philosopher Bertrand Russell even claimed to have experienced ‘about a hundred’ false awakenings in succession while coming round from a general anaesthetic

Types of false awakenings

Celia Green suggested a distinction should be made between two types of false awakening:

Type 1

Type 1 may be thought of as the ‘common-or-garden’ sort, in which the dreamer seems to wake up, but not necessarily in realistic surroundings, that is, not in their own bedroom. A pre-lucid dream may ensue. More commonly, dreamers will believe they have awakened and then ‘fall back asleep’ in the dream.

Type 2

The Type 2 false awakening seems to be considerably less common. Green characterised it as follows: 'the subject appears to wake up in a realistic manner, but to an atmosphere of suspense. His surroundings may at first appear normal, and he may gradually become aware of something uncanny in the atmosphere, and perhaps of unwonted sounds and movements.

Or he may “awake” immediately to a “stressed” and “stormy” atmosphere. In either case, the end result would appear to be characterized by feelings of suspense, excitement or apprehension.'

Charles McCreery drew attention to the similarity between this description and the description by the German psychopathologist Karl Jaspers of the so-called ‘primary delusionary experience’ (a general feeling which precedes any more specific delusory belief).

Jaspers wrote: ‘Patients feel uncanny and that there is something suspicious afoot. Everything gets a new meaning. The environment is somehow different – not to a gross degree – perception is unaltered in itself but there is some change which envelops everything with a subtle, pervasive and strangely uncertain light. Something seems in the air which the patient cannot account for, a distrustful, uncomfortable, uncanny tension invades him.’

McCreery suggests that this phenomenological similarity is not accidental, and results from the fact that both phenomena, the Type 2 false awakening and the primary delusionary experience, are phenomena of sleep.

He suggests that the primary delusionary experience, like other phenomena of psychosis such as hallucinations and secondary or specific delusions, represents an intrusion into waking consciousness of processes associated with Stage 1 sleep.

It is suggested that the reason for these intrusions is that the psychotic subject is in a state of hyper-arousal, a state which can lead to what Ian Oswald called ‘micro-sleeps’ in waking life.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is a condition characterized by temporary paralysis of the body shortly after waking up (known as hypnopompic paralysis) or, less often, shortly before falling asleep (known as hypnagogic paralysis).

Physiologically, it is closely related to the paralysis that occurs as a natural part of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is known as REM atonia.

Sleep paralysis occurs when the brain awakes from a REM state, but the bodily paralysis persists. This leaves the person fully conscious, but unable to move. In addition, the state may be accompanied by terrifying hallucinations (hypnopompic or hypnagogic) which cause an acute sense of danger.

Sleep paralysis is particularly frightening to the individual due to the vividness of such hallucinations. The hallucinatory element to sleep paralysis makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful, or dream-like, objects may appear in the room alongside one's normal vision. Some scientists have proposed this condition as a theory for alien abductions and ghostly encounters.

The paralysis can last from several seconds to several minutes "after which the individual may experience panic symptoms and the realization that the distorted perceptions were false".

When there is an absence of narcolepsy, sleep paralysis is referred to as isolated sleep paralysis (ISP). "ISP appears to be far more common and recurrent among African Americans than among White Americans or Nigerian Blacks", and is often referred to within African American communities as "the witch riding your back"


Symptoms of sleep paralysis can be either one of the following or a combination:

Paralysis: this occurs after waking up or shortly before falling asleep. the person cannot move any body part, cannot speak, and only has minimal control over blinking and breathing. This paralysis is the same paralysis that occurs when dreaming. The brain paralyzes the muscles to prevent possible injury during dreams, as some body parts may move during dreaming. If the person wakes up suddenly, the brain may still think that it is dreaming, and sustains the paralysis.

Hallucinations: Images or speaking that appear during the paralysis. The person may think that someone is standing beside them or they may hear strange sounds. These may be dreamlike, possibly causing the person to think that they are still dreaming. Often it is reported as feeling a weight on one's chest, as if being underneath a person or heavy object.

These symptoms can last from mere seconds to several minutes (although they can feel like much longer) and can be frightening to the person.

Possible Causes

Sleep paralysis occurs during REM sleep, thus preventing the body from manifesting movements made in the subject's dreams. Very little is known about the physiology of sleep paralysis.

However, some have suggested that it may be linked to post-synaptic inhibition of motor neurons in the pons region of the brain.

In particular, low levels of melatonin may stop the depolarization current in the nerves, which prevents the stimulation of the muscles, to prevent the body from enacting the dream activity (e.g. preventing a sleeper from flailing his legs when dreaming about running).

Several studies have concluded that many or most people will experience sleep paralysis at least once or twice in their lives.

Many people who commonly enter sleep paralysis also suffer from narcolepsy. In African-Americans, panic disorder occurs with sleep paralysis more frequently than in Caucasians.

Some reports read that various factors increase the likelihood of both paralysis and hallucinations. These include:

1) Sleeping in an upwards supine position

2) Irregular sleeping schedules; naps, sleeping in, sleep deprivation

3) Increased stress

4) Sudden environmental/lifestyle changes

5) A lucid dream that immediately precedes the episode.

Confabulation (False Memory)

Confabulation, also known as false memory is the confusion of imagination with memory, and/or the confusion of true memories with false memories. Confabulation can result from both organic and psychological causes.

Organic Causes

Berlyne defined confabulation as “…a falsification of memory occurring in clear consciousness in association with an organically derived amnesia.” He distinguished between:

“momentary” (or “provoked”) confabulations - fleeting, and invariably provoked by questions probing the subject’s memory – sometimes consisting of “real” memories displaced in their temporal context.

“fantastic” (or “spontaneous”) confabulations - characterised by the spontaneous outpouring of irrelevant associations – sometimes bizarre ideas, which may be held with firm conviction.

Patients who have suffered brain damage or lesions, especially to the Prefrontal cortical regions, may have confabulation of memories as a symptom.

Patients with Korsakoff's syndrome characteristically confabulate by guessing an answer or imagining an event and then mistaking their guess or imagination for an actual memory. In some cases, confabulation is a function of the brain's chemistry, a mapping of the activation of neurons to brain activity.

Confabulation can also occur as a result of damage to the Anterior communicating artery (ACoA), in the Circle of Willis.

Some military agents, such as BZ, and deliriant drugs such as those found in datura, noticeably scopolamine and atropine, may also cause confabulation.

Psychological Causes

Bartlett’s studies of remembering are arguably the first concerted attempt to look at memory illusions phenomena.

In one experiment, he asked a group of students to read in Indian folktale and then recall that at various time intervals. As well as errors of omission, interestingly he found numerous errors of commission whereby participants had adapted or added to the story to make it more rational or consistent.

In the 1970s a number of researchers and theories started to emphasise what has been called the constructivist view of memory, maintaining that reasoning influences memory, in contrast to the prevailing view at the time which was that memory is essential for proper reasoning.

Theorists such as Bransford and Franks noted the significance of personal beliefs and desires, or more technically scripts and schemas, in memory retrieval.

Constructivism has fallen out of fashion recently due to the contention that it is either false or un-testable. Memory is presumably not always reconstructive as the considerable evidence of its veridical quality is testament. Constructivism cannot simply be rephrased as the thesis that memory is not always reproductive.

As Reyna and Lloyd point out, this amounts to the claim that memory is sometimes reproductive and sometimes reconstructive; which is unexplanatory and unfalsefiable as any result can be accommodated post hoc. Because of this a number of theories have now been advanced which instead focus on the mechanism by which an essentially accurate memory system can sometimes produce erroneous results.

Notably, both source monitoring framework and fuzzy-trace theory purport to both indicate when false memories are likely to occur and give a more detailed explanatory account than either reproductive or constructivist views.

Source monitoring refers to the process by which we discriminate between internally and externally derived memory sources as well as differentiations within the external and external domains: differentiating between two external sources or between internal sources, for instance between what was said and what was thought.

The theory postulates that these decisions are made based on the characteristics of memories compared to norms for memories for different sources, such as the proportions of perceptual, contextual, affective and semantic information featured in the encoding of the memory. Under the source monitoring framework false memory is seen as a failure to attribute information to the correct source.

This happens when there is insufficient information available to discriminate between different sources (perhaps because of natural deterioration), or when the wrong criterion is used to discriminate. For example a doctor might mistakenly think a patient is on a specific medicine because they were discussing the medicine with a colleague shortly after seeing them.

Fuzzy trace theory is based on the assumption that memory is not stored in unitary form. Instead memories are encoded on a number of levels, from an exact ‘verbatim’ account, to ‘gist’ which represents the overall meaning of the event. False memory effects are usually (but not always) explained as a reliance on gist traces in a situation when verbatim traces are needed.

Because of this people may mistakenly recall a memory that only goes along with a vague gist of what happened, rather than the exact course of events. Essentially there are three reasons why people might do this.

There is thought to be a general bias towards the use of gist traces in cognition due to their resource efficiency and people will tend to use gist traces when it is thought that they will be adequate to satisfy the demands of the situation.

Second, verbatim traces are said to be inherently less stable than gist and decay quicker.

Finally, during the course of forgetting memories fragment and gist and verbatim can become independent.

Cellular Memory

Cellular memory is the hypothesis that such things as memories, habits, interests, and tastes may somehow be stored in all the cells of human bodies, i.e. not only in the brain. The suggestion arose following a number of organ transplants in which the recipient was reported to have developed the memories.

An article, "Changes in Heart Transplant Recipients That Parallel the Personalities of Their Donors", published in the Spring 2002 issue of the Journal of Near-Death Studies without peer review, sources or evidence, reported anecdotes in which recipients "inherited" a love for classical music, a change of sexual orientation, changes in diet and vocabulary, and in one case an identification of the donor's murderer.

The academic organ transplant community accepts this notion as pseudoscientific and absurd, as it has never been demonstrated in a scientific manner. There is also the fear that such notions may hinder organ donation.

The 2008 film The Eye is about a character named Sydney, a young, blind violinist who is given the chance to see for the first time since childhood through a miraculous corneal transplant.

As Sydney adjusts to a dizzying new world of colors and shapes, she is haunted by frightening visions of death itself capturing the doomed and dragging them away from the world of the living and is an example of cellular memory portrayed in the media.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Do Meteors Create Life?

Do Meteors Create Life? Explosion Of New Life Coincided With Hundreds Of Meteorite Impacts...

Meteorite impacts are often associated with huge disasters, mass extinction and why the dinosaurs disappeared from the face of the Earth some 65 million years ago.

However, the opposite may also occur – that new and more varied animal life arises following such a catastrophe, is shown by new research conducted by the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.

Together with colleagues from Lund University in Sweden, two palaeontologists, Svend Stouge and Dave Harper, have discovered that the Earth in the so-called Ordovician period 490-440 million years ago was struck by more than 100 meteorites at one time, and that in the wake of this event, new and more varied life evolved in the oceans, which at that time were home to virtually all life on Earth.

“You could say that biological evolution experienced a serious boost within a relatively short period of time. And, as is the case with, for example, volcanic eruptions or large forest fires, the impacts initially had a devastating effect on all life, but from the ashes arose a much richer fauna than had existed previously.

And another interesting aspect is that this situation occurred 40 million years after the so-called Cambrian explosion. It was during this explosion that the first complex multicellular creatures appeared, even though scientists are still discussing whether this evolution was a rapid explosion or whether it took place over a longer period of time,” says Dave Harper from the University of Copenhagen.

The conclusions of the two scientists are, among other things, based on computer analyses, chemical samples from meteorites, fossils and examination of different craters in Sweden, for example the large Lockne crater in northern Sweden, which has a diameter of 7.5 km.

“So far, our research has shown that it was a regional phenomenon around Baltica, the Baltic Sea of that time.

The area underwent an extraordinary change during a short period of time in terms of the evolution of new species, primarily shellfish, e.g. the so-called brachiopods, which resemble today’s mussels, but which already at that time were quite different.

We will now be studying whether this was a global phenomenon. It will be really exciting for the entire history of evolution, especially as it does seem that there is some truth in it and in the impact theory.

We have now found meteorites in southern China with the same chemical composition as those we have studied in Sweden. Consequently, we are going to be studying craters and meteorites in China and in the USA to establish whether it was a global phenomenon,” says Svend Stouge from the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

The findings of the two scientists have been published in the British journal Nature Geoscience.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Introduction to Brain-Computer Interfacing

A brain-computer interface (BCI), sometimes called a direct neural interface or a brain-machine interface, is a direct communication pathway between a human or animal brain (or brain cell culture) and an external device.

In one-way BCIs, computers either accept commands from the brain or send signals to it (for example, to restore vision) but not both.

Two-way BCIs would allow brains and external devices to exchange information in both directions but have yet to be successfully implanted in animals or humans.

In this definition, the word brain means the brain or nervous system of an organic life form rather than the mind. Computer means any processing or computational device, from simple circuits to silicon chips (including hypothetical future technologies such as quantum computing).

Research on BCIs began in the 1970s, but it wasn't until the mid-1990s that the first working experimental implants in humans appeared. Following years of animal experimentation, early working implants in humans now exist, designed to restore damaged hearing, sight and movement.

The common thread throughout the research is the remarkable cortical plasticity of the brain, which often adapts to BCIs, treating prostheses controlled by implants as natural limbs.

With recent advances in technology and knowledge, pioneering researchers could now conceivably attempt to produce BCIs that augment human functions rather than simply restoring them, previously only the realm of science fiction.

New Age Movement

New Age is the term commonly used to designate the broad movement of late 20th century and contemporary Western culture, characterized by an eclectic and individual approach to spiritual exploration and references the supposed coming astrological Age of Aquarius. Self-spirituality, New spirituality, and Mind-body-spirit are other names sometimes used for the movement.

Beliefs in New Age ideas are found among diverse individuals, including some who graft additional beliefs onto a traditional religious affiliation. Individuals who hold any of its beliefs may not identify with the name, and the name may be applied as a label by outsiders to anyone they consider inclined towards its world view.

The New Age movement includes elements of older spiritual and religious traditions from both East and West, many of which have been melded with ideas from modern science, particularly psychology and ecology.

New Age ideas could be described as drawing inspiration from all the major world religions with influences from Spiritualism, Buddhism, Hermeticism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Shamanism, Mayanism, Ceremonial magic, Sufism, Taoism, New Thought, Wiccan and Neo-Paganism being especially strong.

From this collection of influences have come a wide-ranging literature on spirituality, new forms of music known as "new age music", crafts—most visible in speciality shops and New Age fairs and festivals, and increased interest in the methods of alternative medicine.

New Age Music

New Age music is peaceful music of various styles that is intended to create relaxation and positive feelings. Some but not all new age music is associated with New Age beliefs.

New Age music is typically relaxing and inspiring, and is often used by listeners for such activities as yoga, massage, meditation, reading, as a method of stress management or to create a peaceful atmosphere in their home or other environments.

The harmonies in new age music are generally modal, consonant, or include a drone bass. The melodies are often repetitive, to create a hypnotic feeling, and sometimes recordings of nature sounds are used as an introduction to a track or throughout the piece. Songs of up to 30 minutes duration are not uncommon.

New Age music includes both electronic forms, frequently relying on sustained pads or long sequencer-based runs; and acoustic forms, featuring instruments such as flutes, piano, acoustic guitar and a wide variety of non-western acoustic instruments.

In many cases, high-quality digitally sampled instruments are used instead of natural acoustic instruments. Vocal arrangements were initially rare in New Age music but as it has evolved vocals have become more common, especially vocals featuring Sanskrit, Tibetan or Native American-influenced chants, or lyrics based on mythology such as Celtic legends or the realm of Faerie.

Introduction to Computer Vision

Computer vision is the science and technology of machines that see.

As a scientific discipline, computer vision is concerned with the theory for building artificial systems that obtain information from images. The image data can take many forms, such as a video sequence, views from multiple cameras, or multi-dimensional data from a medical scanner.

As a technological discipline, computer vision seeks to apply the theories and models of computer vision to the construction of computer vision systems. Examples of applications of computer vision systems include systems for:

1) Controlling processes (e.g. an industrial robot or an autonomous vehicle).

2) Detecting events (e.g. for visual surveillance or people counting).

3) Organizing information (e.g. for indexing databases of images and image sequences).

4) Modeling objects or environments (e.g. industrial inspection, medical image analysis or topographical modeling).

5) Interaction (e.g. as the input to a device for computer-human interaction).

Computer vision can also be described as a complement (but not necessarily the opposite) of biological vision. In biological vision, the visual perception of humans and various animals are studied, resulting in models of how these systems operate in terms of physiological processes.

Computer vision, on the other hand, studies and describes artificial vision system that are implemented in software and/or hardware. Interdisciplinary exchange between biological and computer vision has proven increasingly fruitful for both fields.

Sub-domains of computer vision include scene reconstruction, event detection, tracking, object recognition, learning, indexing, ego-motion and image restoration.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cyborgs - Cybernetic Organisms

A cyborg is a cybernetic organism (an organism that is a self-regulating integration of artificial and natural systems).

The term was coined in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space.

D. S. Halacy's Cyborg: Evolution of the Superman in 1965 featured an introduction by Manfred Clynes, who wrote of a "new frontier" that was "not merely space, but more profoundly the relationship between 'inner space' to 'outer space' -a bridge...between mind and matter."

The cyborg is often seen today merely as an organism that has enhanced abilities due to technology, but this perhaps oversimplifies the category of feedback.

Fictional cyborgs are portrayed as a synthesis of organic and synthetic parts, and frequently pose the question of difference between human and machine as one concerned with morality, free will, and empathy.

Fictional cyborgs may be represented as visibly mechanical (e.g. the Borg in the Star Trek franchise); or as almost indistinguishable from humans (e.g. the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica).

These fictional portrayals often register our society's discomfort with its seemingly increasing reliance upon technology, particularly when used for war, and when used in ways that seem to threaten free will.

They also often have abilities, physical or mental, far in advance of their human counterparts (military forms may have inbuilt weapons, amongst other things). Real cyborgs are more frequently people who use cybernetic technology to repair or overcome the physical and mental constraints of their bodies.

While cyborgs are commonly thought of as mammals, they can be any kind of organism.

According to some definitions of the term, the metaphysical and physical attachments humanity has with even the most basic technologies have already made them cyborgs.

In a typical example, a human fitted with a heart pacemaker or an insulin pump (if the person has diabetes) might be considered a cyborg, since these mechanical parts enhance the body's "natural" mechanisms through synthetic feedback mechanisms.

Some theorists cite such modifications as contact lenses, hearing aids, or intraocular lenses as examples of fitting humans with technology to enhance their biological capabilities; however, these modifications are no more cybernetic than would be a pen, a wooden leg, or the spears used by chimps to hunt vertebrates.

Cochlear implants that combine mechanical modification with any kind of feedback response are more accurately cyborg enhancements.

The prefix "cyber" is also used to address human-technology mixtures in the abstract. This includes artifacts that may not popularly be considered technology.

Pen and paper, for example, as well as speech, language. Augmented with these technologies, and connected in communication with people in other times and places, a person becomes capable of much more than they were before.

This is like computers, which gain power by using Internet protocols to connect with other computers.

Cybernetic technologies include highways, pipes, electrical wiring, buildings, electrical plants, libraries, and other infrastructure that we hardly notice, but which are critical parts of the cybernetics that we work within.

Robot Fetishism

Robot fetishism (also ASFR or technosexuality) is a fetishistic attraction to humanoid or non-humanoid robots; also to people acting like robots or people dressed in robot costumes. A less common fantasy involves transformation into a robot.

In these ways it is similar to agalmatophilia, which involves attraction to or transformation into statues or mannequins.

Robot fetishism can be viewed as a form of erotic anthropomorphism. When transformation or roleplaying is involved it can be thought of as a form of erotic objectification.

By its enthusiasts, robot fetishism is more commonly referred to by the initials ASFR. This initialism stems from the now defunct newsgroup Many devotees of this fetish refer to themselves as technosexual, or as "ASFRians". ASFR can be divided into two distinct but sometimes overlapping types of fantasies.

The first of these is simply a desire to have a ready-made android partner. This partner can be desired for sex, companionship, or any combination of the two. The main distinguishing feature of this fantasy is that the android is a completely artificial construct, often manufactured solely to fulfil the wishes of its owner. This type of fantasy or situation is referred to as built.

The second type of fantasy prevalent within ASFR is referred to as transformation. This involves a human who has been either willingly or unwillingly turned into an android. That person can be either oneself or one's partner, or both. It is usually the process of transformation (through whatever means it is achieved) that is the focus of this fantasy.

Many people in the ASFR community prefer either one or the other. In some cases this preference is very strong, and people can be as equally repelled by one type as they are attracted to the other. In other cases, there is as much appreciation for built as there is for transformation.

A recent informal survey of ASFR community members found that three fifths prefer built while the remainder prefer transformation or some combination of both.

The aspects of this fetish that are most appreciated by members of the ASFR community are greatly varied. For some, things like robotic appearance, motion, or sound are important for arousal.

For others, these are not, and a completely life-like android that appears to be human is desired. This holds true for other aspects, such as sentience or self-awareness. The ability of the android to remove parts of its skin or other bodily appendages in order to reveal its circuitry is quite pleasing to some, but distasteful to others.

There is a further divide between those who prefer an android to appear human-like and those who would prefer a more mechanical looking robot, i.e. with a metallic surface.

As realistic androids and humanoid robots do not currently exist in a form readily available to the consumer, this fetish can only be acted upon in a limited number of ways. Primarily this is done through fantasy, involving either self stimulation or sexual roleplaying with a partner.

ASFR art is therefore important to aid in the reinforcement of imagination.

Art with ASFR content includes but is not limited to science fiction movies, television shows, novels, short stories, illustrations, manipulated photographs, songs and even television commercials.

Such works are sought after by technosexuals since economically viable androids are not yet available. Realistic sex dolls such as the RealDoll remain the only concrete way to fully explore this fetish.

However, recent developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, such as those seen in the Actroid or EveR-1 can only lead to the production of more advanced synthetic partners.

It is also worth noting that some ASFRians do not wish to use synthetic partners at all, and instead would prefer human partners to participate in forms of fantasy play.


Agalmatophilia is the sexual attraction to a statue, doll or mannequin. Pygmalionism, refers to a state of love for an object of one's own creation, but may also be used to describe the attraction to statues.

Preferences in the individual

Agalmatophilia also crosses over into transformation fetishism in the form of fantasies about people transformed into any of those objects. For many it is the idea of immobility or loss of control that is arousing rather than an immobile object per se, and so there are also fantasies about mannequin-like paralysis which sometimes cross over into hypnofetishism and robot fetishism.

Such fantasies may of course be extended to roleplaying, and the self-coined term used by fetishists who enjoy being transformed appears to be "rubber doll" or "latex doll".

Representation in the arts

A number of famous art photographers have extensively featured sexualised life-sized dolls in their work, such as: Hans Bellmer, Bernard Faucon, Helmut Newton, Morton Bartlett, Katan Amano, Kishin Shinoyama, and Ryoichi Yoshida.

Agalmatophilia features prominently in Tarsem Singh's 2000 thriller movie The Cell. The movie centres on a serial killer named Carl Stargher who drowns his victims (all young women) and then bleaches their bodies so they resemble dolls. He then masturbates while hanging himself above them.

Later on in the movie there is a scene taking place inside his mind in which a psychiatrist finds a collection of grotesque, doll-like, corpse-like women inside display cases depicting scenes, while attached to crude machinery that jerks them about in sadomasochistic sexual poses; how the killer percieves his victims.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hybrots - Hybrid Robots

A hybrot (short for "hybrid robot") is a cybernetic organism in the form of a robot controlled by a computer consisting of both electronic and biological elements. The biological elements are rat neurons connected to a computer chip.

This feat was first accomplished by Dr. Steve Potter, a professor of biomedical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology:

"In his experiment, Potter places a droplet of solution containing thousands of rat neuron cells onto a silicon chip that's embedded with 60 electrodes connected to an amplifier. The electrical signals that the cells fire at one another are picked up by the electrodes which then send the amplified signal into a computer. The computer, in turn, wirelessly relays the data to the robot."

"The robot then manifests this neuronal activity with physical motion, each of its movements a direct result of neurons talking to neurons. And the robot also sends information back to the cells. Equipped with light sensors, the robot receives input about its location in the playpen from infrared signals lining the borders."

What separates a hybrot from a cyborg is that the latter term is a commonly used to refer to a cybernetically enhanced human or animal; while a hybrot is an entirely new type of creature constructed from organic and artificial materials. It's perhaps helpful to think of the hybrot as "semi-living," a term also used by the hybrot's inventors.

Another interesting feature of the hybrot is its longevity. Neurons separated from a living brain usually die after a short period of time; however, due to a specially designed incubator utilizing a new sealed-dish culture system, a hybrot may live as long as two years.

Part 2: Colonization of Mars


Now, can we ever colonize Mars? NASA has been trying to find a solution to a problem that we learned about in exercise physiology a long time ago.

When you decrease the stress on the human skeleton, calcium leaches out of the skeleton making it more brittle. This leaching begins surprisingly fast and occurs in relation to the decrease in stress on the skeleton.

In other words, less gravity causes our bones to quickly get weaker and become more susceptible to breaking.

This is very serious because it is a form of gravity induced osteoporosis and has the same potential hazards.

With regular osteoporosis, a decrease in bone density of just 10% greatly increases bone breakage from falls or impacts. Now imagine living on Mars for a few years where the gravity is only 38% of Earth's gravity. Your bone density would quickly decrease to less than 50% of its regular density.

You could not return to Earth to visit relatives because the force of the impact of just landing on Earth would crush your bones and possibly cause your death. And there are other problems caused by decreased gravity on the body such as weakening of muscles and connective tissue.

Now imagine living in zero gravity for the six months required to reach Mars, living on Mars for the minimum of one year that it will take before Earth and Mars are again close enough to travel between the two planets, and then living in zero gravity for the six months required to return to Earth. Until NASA can solve the problems caused by decreased gravity, we cannot even send a manned expedition to Mars. They could never return to Earth.

One possible solution for an expedition is to have a space vehicle which rotates to use centripetal force to create the force effects of gravity on the body. This vehicle would have to be used as a base of operations in orbit above Mars with the scientists commuting back and forth between the space vehicle and the surface of Mars.

They could not stay on the surface of Mars for prolonged periods of time. This type of vehicle would be very expensive and, maybe, prohibitive.Such a vehicle could not be used for the colonization of Mars unless they plan to live on the space station and only commute to the surface of Mars for brief periods of time.

Simply put, it is not possible to colonize Mars unless we first develop artificial gravity.

We can never live outside of pressurized shelters on Mars because of the inadequate atmospheric pressure. You have to understand that the atmosphere around us is constantly pushing in on our bodies with the pressure of one bar of atmospheric pressure. In order to keep our bodies from being crushed by our atmospheric pressure, our bodies are pushing out with one bar of atmospheric pressure.

If we significantly increase the atmospheric pressure on our bodies, we will be crushed and, if we significantly decrease the atmospheric pressure on our bodies, we will expand very quickly or explode.On Mars, our bodies will be pushing out with a force at least 200 times greater than the force of the atmosphere pushing in on it.

Two things will happen almost instantly if you were to step outside without a space suit.

That much of a decrease in outside pressure on your body will cause the water in your body and cells to vaporize very quickly which will greatly increase the outward force of your body to much more than 200 times the atmospheric pressure.

With this much of an imbalance in pressures, every cell in your body will turn into a very powerful, tiny bomb and you will turn into a cloud of molecules almost instantly. There wont be one cubic inch of tissue left.

The explosion will probably destroy anything within a block or more of you and you will leave a really nice crater. But don't worry, it will happen so fast that your nerve and brain cells wont have time to process any signals so you wont fell a thing. You will be standing there one instant and then...POOF!!!

The stuff you see in the movies and on TV about people being blown out of air locks and floating off into space completely intact is incorrect. As soon as the pressure in the air lock decreased to a certain level, your body would explode with enough force to rip a hole in the side of the space ship and cause it to also explode or at least spew everyone and everything inside of it into space.

All of the organic objects in the space vehicle would quickly explode. It is a matter of relative pressures. If an object exerts an outward force 200 to thousands of times greater than the inward pressure of the atmosphere, we call it a bomb. In Mars' atmosphere, you would be a bomb.

Part 1: Mars Analysis


Is it possible for life to have ever existed on Mars or for man to colonize Mars? Scientists at NASA are leading us to believe that both are true. Are they true? Let's see.To answer these questions, we will use science to analyze and compare three different planets. Earth, Earth's moon, and Mars.

Mars is regularly referred to as Earth's sister planet to imply that the two planets are close enough in size to have the same physical properties and, since Earth can support life, then so can Mars.

But...Mars is actually closer to the size of the Moon (our moon is the fifth largest known moon in our universe.) We know that the moon cannot support life because it does not have enough gravity to maintain enough of an atmosphere to have life. If we were to pipe all of Earth's atmosphere to the Moon, it would all float out into space within a relatively brief period of time.

Without an adequate atmosphere, we cannot have water in a liquid state. Atmospheric pressure is required to keep water in the liquid state. We have known for over half a century that liquid water in a vacuum instantly either vaporizes (boils) or freezes. Without adequate atmospheric pressure, water can only exist as either a gas or solid.

Without liquid water, you cannot have life because of the very unusual properties of water which make life possible and are not found in any other fluids. Therefore, life cannot happen or evolve on the Moon.Mars is only 17% the size of Earth which means that Earth is more than five times the size of Mars.

This is a huge difference for planets that are supposed to be sister planets. Mars only has 38% of Earth's gravity which means that Earth has more than two and a half times more gravity than Mars.

This is a crucial difference and the main factor which will tell us whether or not life can exist on Mars or if we can colonize Mars. The Moon only has 16.7% of Earth's gravity. Mar's gravity is only a little more than twice that of the Moon's gravity. As you can see, Mars is much more a sister of our Moon than Earth. It gets better.

The Moon does have a little atmosphere but so little that we say it has none. Mars has a similar problem to the Moon. With less gravity, it is easier for gas to float away from a planet and, therefore, the planet cannot maintain as much or as dense of an atmosphere. Mar's atmospheric pressure is between four and five millibars at the surface. 1,000 millibars equals one bar of atmospheric pressure which is Earth's atmospheric pressure.

Mars' atmosphere is less than 5/1,000 that of Earth's atmospheric pressure. This is much closer to the Moon's atmospheric pressure.The gravity on Mars is not adequate to maintain much of an atmosphere for very long. It cannot maintain enough atmosphere to have water in the liquid state.

Liquid water released on Mars will either vaporize or freeze very quickly. The only way you can have liquid water on the surface of Mars for even a brief period of time is if volcanic activity were to quickly release enough steam into the atmosphere to force the water beyond the point of saturation for the atmosphere and forcing water to condense. Enough of this water vapor would quickly float away from Mars to return it to the state to where liquid water would quickly either vaporize or freeze.

Mars cannot maintain water in the liquid state required for life for even a million years, much less for long enough for life to happen and evolve.A problem caused by this very thin atmosphere is that there is not enough atmosphere on Mars to keep the heat created by sun light striking the surface from quickly radiating out into space.

This problem is made even worse because Mars is enough further from the sun so that much less light hits its surface and there is less surface to heat up the atmosphere. Because of this, the temperature on Mars remains well below freezing (average temperature is -55 F) except during the summer at the equator during the day time when it can briefly reach up to 80 degrees F.

This further decreases the possibility of ever having life on Mars. An atmosphere is crucial to having the conditions required for life which means that an adequate gravity is also required to have life happen and evolve on a planet. A planet has to be just the right size to be able to have life on it. Earth is the only planet in our universe which is the right size to have life on it.Then why is NASA telling us that we are looking for life on Mars.

I suggest two possible reasons.

First, a number of the most influential scientists are evolutionists who are hoping to find evidence of life on Mars to keep their religion of evolution alive as I stated in the page on "What Is Science?" and they are so desperate they are willing to ignore what science tells them should be the case.

Second, maybe they don't feel that Americans will spend the billions of dollars to explore Mars for scientific curiosity but will spend the money to search for possible life. In other words, it keeps the money coming in to pay their salaries. I believe that it is probably a little of both.

Lunar Ark to preserve Human Civilisation

Mankind's secrets kept in lunar ark

IF civilisation is wiped out on Earth, salvation may come from space. Plans are being drawn up for a “Doomsday ark” on the moon containing the essentials of life and civilisation, to be activated in the event of earth being devastated by a giant asteroid or nuclear war.

Construction of a lunar information bank, discussed at a conference in Strasbourg last month, would provide survivors on Earth with a remote-access toolkit to rebuild the human race.

A basic version of the ark would contain hard discs holding information such as DNA sequences and instructions for metal smelting or planting crops. It would be buried in a vault just under the lunar surface and transmitters would send the data to heavily protected receivers on earth. If no receivers survived, the ark would continue transmitting the information until new ones could be built.

The vault could later be extended to include natural material including microbes, animal embryos and plant seeds and even cultural relics such as surplus items from museum stores.

As a first step to discovering whether living organisms could survive, European Space Agency scientists are hoping to experiment with growing tulips on the moon within the next decade.

According to Bernard Foing, chief scientist at the agency’s research department, the first flowers - tulips or arabidopsis, a plant widely used in research - could be grown in 2012 or 2015.
“Eventually, it will be necessary to have a kind of Noah’s ark there, a diversity of species from the biosphere,” said Foing.

Tulips are ideal because they can be frozen, transported long distances and grown with little nourishment. Combined with algae, an enclosed artificial atmosphere and chemically enhanced lunar soil, they could form the basis of an ecosystem.

The first experiments would be carried out in transparent biospheres containing a mix of gases to mimic the earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide given off by the decomposing plants would be mopped up by the algae, which would generate oxygen through photosynthesis.

The databank would initially be run by robots and linked to earth by radio transmissions. Scientists hope to put a manned station on the moon before the end of the century.

The databank would need to be buried under rock to protect it from the extreme temperatures, radiation and vacuum on the moon. It would be run partly on solar power. The scientists envisage placing the first experimental databank on the moon no later than 2020 and it could have a lifespan of 30 years. The full archive would be launched by 2035.

The information would be held in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish and would be linked by transmitter to 4,000 “Earth repositories” that would provide shelter, food, a water supply for survivors.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Birth Regression


Birth Regression

There are two approaches to the pre-natal and birth experience. During past life exploration the natural progression leads from the past life into the Light. From the planning stage in the Light just before the present life begins, a being can move into the earth plane and locate the woman who will be the mother in the lifetime to come.

The client is guided to the experience of mother and father as they join in the union which will lead to conception. This interaction can be, loving in a romantic setting, or it can be rape, incest, or a drunken brawl between a husband and a wife.

The moment of conception occurs when the sperm meets and breaks through into the egg. The therapist allows the client time to experience this silently as it is usually indescribable. A person may get a sense of electric shock beginning at the top of their head and moving entirely down the length of their body.

The emotions and sensations involved in the interaction between mother and father are fully registered on the consciousness of the incoming being. The client may report a time when mom and dad are making love or fighting.

The moment when momma discovers she's pregnant is usually registered clearly; dad's reaction when she tells him she's pregnant may be even more significant. He may react in anger, "Oh no, not another kid," or something similar.

This may set the emotional tone for the life to come. If several months pass between conception and the discovery of pregnancy the being may feel invisible, unacknowledged, denied. This also foretells an attitude in the family.

Pregnancy can terminate by miscarriage if the desire to leave is strong enough. Early crib death may result from the unwillingness of the being to engage in life. Any thoughts the parent may have about abortion are registered by the consciousness and the client will react strongly as this memory surfaces.

The incoming spirit knows at that point everything that is transpiring and reacts as a personality. The therapist guides the client in a thorough exploration of these responses from the parents.

If there is a strong or painful reaction, especially if the reaction still affects the present day relationships, it can be used as a bridge to a trauma in a prior lifetime that leads into the pre-natal situation.

This will often uncover a time when the roles of parent and child were reversed. As this past life resentment, even the resistance to the present life circumstance often seems to dissolve.

The therapist uses gentle prompting to move the client forward in the pre-natal experience. This continues until the client feels the time of delivery is near. There may be a strong desire to get out of there. The client will usually describe incredible pressure on the head, and a feeling of being squeezed.

There might be a resistance, an aversion to leaving the security of the womb. Despite this resistance the physiology moves on irrevocably to conclusion. This reluctance to leave the womb can manifest as a breech presentation at birth.

Finally when it feels hopeless to the infant, like they're gong to be crushed from top to bottom, head to toe, there is an easing of the pressure against the top of the head as the cervix begins to dilate. In the birth canal they are squeezed, there is a combination of pleasure and pain, fear and resistance to coming out. As the baby emerges there is usually the bight light, the unfamiliar sounds in the delivery room and the inevitable separation from Mother.

If there is anesthesia which dulls mother's consciousness the infant experiences that momma goes away. There's a separation mentally as well as physically. The infant feels abandoned, rejected and does not understand what is happening.

This perceived separation can develop into a fear of separation which may pervade an entire lifetime. There is often enormous anger at that point. The newborn has the feelings but cannot express them. The therapist encourages the client to cry and express the anger, using the language of the adult.

The therapist can probe to determine the source of the anger. What expectations were there before coming in? What happened? What didn't happen at the time of the birth? What agreements were made between mother and child in the planning stage? At the time the conception what agreements were broken? The anger is often about broken agreements.

These memories can be uncovered, revivified and the attendant emotions expressed. When the anger is healed, forgiveness is possible. This resolves the conflict.

There second approach to the birth experience is a gentle regression from the present moment backward in time. The intention is to explore the birth, pre-natal and conception. With the client in a comfortable position the therapist guides softly.


"Breathe in deeply, breathe in light as you breath in and breathe out, relaxing more and more with each breath you take.

A little deeper relaxed with each breath that you take. Breathe in the most beautiful color, the most beautiful color that you can imagine.

As that color fills you let yourself move back, back in time, back through the years. Back to before you were born and you were inside your mother.

Let the color carry you back, let the color carry you back to before you were inside. Before your physical body was conceived. Before the physical experience began.

Find yourself now as a point of consciousness close to the woman that you seem to be drawn to, attracted to. Close to the woman who will become your mother. Describe your first reaction, your response as you locate the woman."

The response may be immediate. It usually doesn't take much longer than this for the client to access the memory. Birth regression is a deeply profound experience for the client and can unravel much of the distortion of the present lifetime.

Human birth is a miracle of existence. A mother's womb is an intricate and delicate mechanism which furnishes the portal or passageway for a discarnate spirit to manifest in the physical world in a human form.

Birth regression is a stimulating process and provides a rich source of material which can be used therapeutically for the healing of the client.

Trauma of Biological Birth


Birth Trauma

Birth may be the most traumatic and dangerous experience one can undergo in life. Freud saw the birth as the first trauma and the origin of all anxieties at the root of later psychic problems.

However, he claimed that the experience was too deeply buried in the unconscious to be retrieved. Especially since it happened in the preverbal consciousness, he thought the trauma was not open to analysis.

Otto Rank, who broke with Freud over this point, insisted that the biological birth trauma must be confronted and relived for resolution.

Human behavior tends to reenact birth: emotional, sexual, psychosomatic and cognitive patterns seem to be in some sense duplications of an intensified memory experience during the birth. It seems that most people are fixated or stuck in the birth trauma.

Past life patterns which plague a person through the present life are re-stimulated sometime during the pre-natal period or the birth and peri-natal experience.

Recall of a past life situation can be triggered in the mind of the unborn or neonate by a sound or smell, the position of the body during birth, the attitude of mother, or the absence of mother's consciousness caused by anesthesia administered during the last minutes of labor and delivery.

The stimulus may be a word or a phrase spoken, especially with strong emotion, by the mother or father anytime during the pregnancy, or the attending physician or nurses during delivery. In a past life therapy session, it is necessary to locate this trigger point in the pre-natal or birth experience.

The major aspect of the consciousness, or the soul, enters at or near the first breath. However, part of the consciousness seems to be connected with the body from the moment of conception, receiving and recording all experience in the forming body including the thoughts and feelings of the mother.

This information is unfiltered, unprocessed and accepted without judgment or discrimination. The impact of this information can have devastating effects on the mind and life of the person in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

The distorted memories and experiences of the newborn can be corrected in adulthood through pre- and peri-natal therapy and birth regression.

Autoeroticism in Animals

It appears that many animals, both male and female, masturbate, both when partners are available and otherwise.

The paper "Sexual Behavior - Current Topics in Applied Ethology and Clinical Methods" by Sue McDonnell states:

"One example is the behavior known within the horse breeding industry as masturbation. This involves normal periodic erections and penile movements. This behavior, both from the descriptive field studies cited above and in extensive study of domestic horses, is now understood as normal, frequent behavior of male equids."

Attempting to inhibit or punish masturbation, which is still a common practice of horse managers regionally around the world, often leads to increased masturbation and disturbances of normal breeding behavior.

Sexual release seeking is common in both domestic and non-domestic species.

The female porcupine will use a stick as a vibrator, holding one end of a stick between her paws and walk around, straddling the stick as it bumps against the ground and vibrates against her genitalia.

Sexologist Havelock Ellis in his 1927 "Studies in the Psychology of Sex" identified bulls, goats, sheep, camels and elephants as species known to practice autoeroticism, adding of some other species:

I am informed by a gentleman who is a recognized authority on goats, that they sometimes take the penis into the mouth and produce actual orgasm, thus practicing auto-fellatio. As regards ferrets..."if the bitch, when in heat, cannot obtain a dog [ie, male ferret] she pines and becomes ill.

If a smooth pebble is introduced into the hutch, she will masturbate upon it, thus preserving her normal health for one season. But if this artificial substitute is given to her a second season, she will not, as formerly, be content with it."

Blumenbach observed a bear act somewhat similarly on seeing other bears coupling, and hyenas, according to Ploss and Bartels, have been seen practicing mutual masturbation by licking each other's genitals.

In his 1999 book, Biological exuberance, Bruce Bagemihl PhD documents that:
Autoeroticism also occurs widely among animals, both male and female.

A variety of creative techniques are used, including genital stimulation using the hand or front paw (primates, Lions), foot (Vampire Bats, primates), flipper (Walruses), or tail (Savanna Baboons), sometimes accompanied by stimulation of the nipples (Rhesus Macaques, Bonobos); auto-fellating or licking, sucking and/or nuzzling by a male of his own penis (Common Chimpanzees, Savanna Bonobos, Vervet Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Thinhorn Sheep, Bharal, Aovdad, Dwarf Cavies); stimulation of the penis by flipping or rubbing it against the belly or in its own sheath (White-tailed and Mule Deer, Zebras and Takhi); spontaneous ejaculations (Mountain Sheep, Warthogs, Spotted Hyenas); and stimulation of the genitals using inanimate objects (found in several primates and cetaceans).

Many birds masturbate by mounting and copulating with tufts of grass, leaves or mounds of earth, and some mammals such as primates and Dolphins also rub their genitals against the ground or other surfaces to stimulate themselves.

Autoeroticism in female mammals, as well as heterosexual and homosexual intercourse (especially in primates), often involves direct or indirect stimulation of the clitoris. This organ is present in the females of all mammalian species and several other animal groups, and that:

Apes and Monkeys use a variety of objects to masturbate with and even deliberately create implements for sexual stimulation often in highly creative ways.

Petter Bøckman of the Norwegian Natural History Museum commented that:

"Masturbation is common in the animal kingdom ... We have a Darwinist mentality that all animals only have sex to procreate. But there are plenty of animals who will masturbate when they have nothing better to do.

Masturbation has been observed among primates, deer, killer whales and penguins, and we're talking about both males and females. They rub themselves against stones and roots. Orangutans are especially inventive. They make dildos of wood and bark."

Evolutionary Purpose of Dark Skin

The evolution of dark skin is tied with the question of loss of body hair.

By 1.2 million years ago, all people having descendants today had exactly the receptor protein of today's Africans; their skin was dark, and the intense sun killed off the progeny with any lighter skin that resulted from mutational variation in the receptor protein. This is significantly earlier than the speciation of Homo sapiens from Homo erectus some 250,000 years ago.

Dark skin helps protect against skin cancer that develops as a result of ultraviolet light radiation, causing mutations in the skin. Furthermore, dark skin prevents an essential B vitamin, folate, from being destroyed.

Therefore, in the absence of modern medicine and diet, a person with dark skin in the tropics would live longer, be more healthy and more likely to reproduce than a person with light skin. White Australians have some of the highest rates of skin cancer as evidence of this expectation.

Conversely, as dark skin prevents sunlight from penetrating the skin it hinders the production of vitamin D3. Hence when humans migrated to less sun-intensive regions in the north, low vitamin D3 levels became a problem and lighter skin colors started appearing.

The people of Europe, who have low levels of melanin, naturally have an almost colorless skin pigmentation, especially when untanned. This low level of pigmentation allows the blood vessels to become visible and gives the characteristic pale pink color of white people.

The difference in skin color between black and whites is however a minor genetic difference accounting for just one letter in 3.1 billion letters of DNA.

Some scholars argue that based on cave paintings, Europeans may have been dark-skinned as late as 13,000 years ago. The painters depicted themselves as having darker complexions than the animals they hunted.

This hypothesis finds support from genetics with the discovery of the SLC24A5 gene in 2005.

The mutation resulting in light skin is currently estimated to have originated among Europeans some 6,000 to 12,000 years ago.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Evolution of Ageing

Enquiry into the evolution of ageing aims to explain why almost all living things weaken and die with age.

There is not yet agreement in the scientific community on a single answer. The evolutionary origin of senescence remains a fundamental unsolved problem in biology.

Historically, ageing was first likened to 'wear and tear': Our bodies get weak for the same reason that a knife gets dull or metal rusts.

But this idea was discredited in the 19th century when the second law of thermodynamics was formalized.

Entropy (disorder) must increase inevitably within a closed system, but living beings are not closed systems.

In fact, it is a defining feature of life that we take in free energy from the environment and unload our entropy as waste. Living systems routinely repair themselves, and, in fact, can build themselves up from seed.

There is no thermodynamic necessity for senescence.

Ageing is believed to have evolved because of the increasingly smaller probability of an organism still being alive at older age, due to predation and accidents, both of which may be random and age-invariant.

It is thought that strategies which result in a higher reproductive rate at a young age, but shorter overall lifespan, result in a higher lifetime reproductive success and are therefore favoured by natural selection.

Essentially, ageing is therefore the result of investing resources in reproduction, rather than maintenance of the body (the "Disposable Soma" theory), in light of the fact that accidents, predation and disease will eventually kill the organism no matter how much energy is devoted to repair of the body.

Various other, or more specific, theories of ageing exist, and are not necessarily mutually exclusive.