Links for 19th June 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker

    "… what does all this mean? Are humans shaped more by nature or nurture? Are we born aggressive, violent and greedy? Do we learn to be nasty by playing Grand Theft Auto? Was there ever a state of innocence? Can we make ourselves a better, more caring, less judgmental species? Are individuals programmed to be what they are because that's what their genes dictate?

    This is a debate in which the science has been abused, distorted and dismissed by the religious right and the Marxist left. But this is also a debate in which science's insiders tend angrily to accuse each other of being doctrinaire, or woolly-minded, but do so in doctrinaire ways, and then go a bit woolly-minded themselves when dealing with actual cases."

    Tagged with: sciencebookspsychologygeneticsdeterminismPinker

  2. ‘Gangsta gene’ identified in US teens

    "Males with a particular form of gene called MAOA are twice as likely to join a gang, compared to those with other forms, finds a new study of more than 2000 US teens. What's more, gang members with these mutations are far more likely to use a weapon than other members.

    "For the most part, people haven't really thought of the biological or genetic underpinnings to gang membership, says Kevin Beaver, a biosocial criminologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee, who led the study.

    The relatively common mutations result in reduced levels of a protein, called monoamine oxidase A, which recycles several of the chemicals that foster neuron connections."

    So, gang membership and poverty and low IQ are all controlled by a single gene. Right. I usually love NS, but sometimes they publish crap like this and it makes me bloody furious.

    Tagged with: geneticsDNAdeterminismcrimepovertystupiditysciencejournalismsensationalism

  3. The Dark Side of Twittering a Revolution

    "The emergence of Twitter as a heroic enabling technology for the pro-democracy demonstrators in Iran this past week has been a thrilling reminder of the power of distributed communication tools. I'm impressed at how useful this simple application has been shown to be, and at the clever hacks the Iran-based commentators have employed to stay online. As so many tech pundits have said, this has been a golden moment for social networking technologies.

    And, I have to admit, it's scared the hell out of me. "

    Tagged with: Casciointernetcommunicationpoliticssocial-mediaactivismglobalizationrevolutionmoral-ambiguitytwitter

  4. Adverbs Revisited

    "First let me say emphatically that ADVERBS WEAKEN WRITING. Case in point is my use of an adverb here. My statement was very emphatic and I didn't need to point that out with the adverb. Any time we do that when it is not necessary is an insult to the reader. It's like were telling him or her that they aren't smart enough to figure out the subtle nuances of behavior or dialogue without a not so subtle hint."

    Tagged with: writingfictioneditingadverbs

  5. LOOP Apps, Merge Microsoft Office Documents, Automate Document Creation, Convert to PDF

    Does what it says on the tin. Useful for us Linux types, but for everyone else also.

    Tagged with: onlinepdfdocumentconversiontoolapplication

  6. x planes

    "experimental aircraft. exotic aeromachines. oddities. sleek silver cigars. pedal-o-trons. soviet hive-mind bombers. aerial joy. the olden days. action shots. propaganda posters. etc" Sweet; like a RiotClitShave for old-school vaiation geeks.

    Tagged with: militaryaviationphotographyhistoryengineeringretroblog

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