Forget the Zombie Apocalypse; is it Time to worry about the Rise of the Apes?

Not too long ago, I guess it has been about a month, the internet was set ablaze with the coming zombie apocalypse.  This was due to a series of grizzly crimes, the most “popular” of which was the one in Miami, where a naked man was shot to death because he was chewing on an unconscious homeless man’s face.  Along with similar “zombie” like criminal activity, there were people sharing a CDC blog entry which advises people on how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, and finally there were first responders in Maine actually practicing a response to a zombie invasion.  All that is cute, to be fair both the CDC blog entry and the Maine practice exercises were both done in a decidedly tongue and cheek fashion; in short there is/will be no zombie apocalypse.  However, maybe there is another looming threat to humanity, and it too mirrors a cinematic franchise.

This new threat could be an uprising by our closest cousins, the apes.  Over the last three or four years there have been a couple of  stories of chimpanzees attacking humans (read more here, and here) which are as gruesome, if not more, than any of the so called zombie attacks.  It is easy to dismiss these attacks as simply the unpredictability of animals being kept in captivity, but what if it is more?  Consider a recent article by AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein entitled; “What was he thinking? Study turns to ape intellect,” which explores new discoveries by researchers into ape’s abilities to think, read, plan for the future and more.  The article is really quite fascinating, but if you like to do a little hyperbolic extrapolation, and have an affinity for conspiracy theories, then it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with a “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” scenario — which is about as far-fetched as a coming zombie apocalypse.

Housework Makes for Happier Husbands

Gender roles; we have been culturally indoctrinated to believe that there are some things that are essentially a women’s domain and other things that are traditionally a man’s domain.  Many of these stereotypes are as old as civilization itself.  In the beginning, men would go out and hunt and gather food, while the women stayed in the “house” and reared the children, made the clothing, and prepared the food stuffs that the men brought back from their hunting and gathering expeditions.  This carried on for millennia, and it seemed to make sense.  Now I am not saying that because I believe a woman’s place is the home, rather it is because those hunting and gathering treks required that the men be gone if not all day, sometimes they were absent for several days, so someone had to stay behind with the youngsters and take care of all of the so called domestic stuff in the men’s absence; otherwise little if any of that stuff would get done.  As already mentioned, this social structure carried on for eons and it perpetuated itself into the so called modern era; but it now appears that as slow as evolution itself the times, they are a changing.

According to a recent study at the University of Cambridge many men are now sharing in more and more of the domestic duties, which isn’t exactly news, but what is news is that many of these men derived more satisfaction from the sharing of the household chores than their wives and girlfriends.  That is a long way of saying that the men who share in the household duties are actually happier than those who don’t.  As far as what these results mean for society, and the reasons for these relatively surprising results, well the researchers give a number of speculative answers for this, ranging from an underlying latent guilt complex in the men, to women becoming more assertive, voicing their dissatisfaction with their partners who don’t lend a hand at home — essentially laying a guilt trip on their unhelping husbands and boyfriends.  It seems to me that they could probably get decidedly less speculative theories on this data if they actually would have asked the research subjects why they help, and why they feel the way they do about helping; but regardless I think it is safe to say that the historical gender roles are moving towards one of more equality, and that is a good thing.

Help Scientists Solve an Ancient Mystery and Win $1,600

Have you ever wanted to, or at least wondered, what it must be like to discover something new?  Obviously not all of grew aspiring to be scientist, and then there are those, like me, who has always been fascinated by science, particularly physics, but I had to reconcile the fact that I am not exactly what one would call a mathematical genius.  If you ever take the time to actually think about, and I encourage you to, science, and I mean ALL science, is absolutely fascinating.  The wonder of the human mind is its ability to actually wonder.  It is inarguable that without our cognitive ability there is no way that we ever would have emerged from the caves, let alone the trees — if you subscribe to evolution.

While science has been able to solve many, many mysteries and dispel equally many superstitions, there are still some things that science hasn’t answered, and even can’t answer.  One of the things that has stumped science for millennia is something that you would think would be surprisingly simple; and that is the fact that hot water freezes faster than cold water.  It is a true mystery, wrapped in a riddle, inside an enigma; and maybe even stuffed in a burrito.

Well, now is all of us once aspiring scientists time to pitch in and help the intellectually gifted sect, and possibly win $1,600 (£1,000).  The United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Chemistry is offering that monetary reward to the commoner who can propose a plausible explanation for this age old mystery that has stumped intellectuals like Aristotle, Roger Bacon, Francis Bacon, and Descartes.  So, strap on your thinking cap, who knows you may discover the answer to this scientific conundrum, and win $1,600 dollars to boot.  Hey, you may even win a Nobel Prize before television’s “The Big Bang Theory’s” Sheldon Cooper…

Couple Sues Little Leaguer for Errant Throw

We have all heard about how competitive little league parents can be, though I wonder how these parents handle themselves in those leagues where scores are no longer kept, but that is another story for another day.  Anyway, some parents have a hard time controlling themselves at the expense of their little leaguers, most of whom are simply out there to have fun, and could really careless if the runner was thrown out at third or not.  Speaking of expense, there are apparently a couple of parents who have brought little league to new lows, because they have decided to sue.

That’s right, a husband and wife are suing, but they are not suing the league, or an umpire who might have called their little darling out, when they thought he was safe.  They are not suing the coach for failing to play their precious child, whom they think is the next Alex Rodriguez.  Instead they are suing another little leaguer.  Wait! What?!  Yes, you read that right, a grown woman, and her husband have filed suit against a little league catcher for an errant thrown that struck here in the face.

The catcher was 11 at the time of the accident (that is a keyword there, “accident”) is now 13, however he has nonetheless been served with a lawsuit seeking more than $150,000 in damages from the couple who claim the then 11 year’s old throw was “reckless and intentional” causing “severe, painful and permanent damages,” while the husband claims that due to these injuries he has lost “consortium” with his wife; which in legalese means they are no long having intercourse.

I know that we live in a hyper-litigious society, but I think this probably takes the cake.  The “injured” couple has requested a jury trial, ostensibly because juries tend to side with the injured, but I have a hard time believing that (1) an 11 year old can throw a baseball hard enough to inflict serious injury (whether the throw is intentional or not) and (2) that this case hasn’t been thrown out as frivolous.  If commonsense should prevail and the case does get thrown out, maybe a counter suit would be in order?  And I say that as a person who believes that there are too many people suing for any and every little thing.  If this case doesn’t get thrown out, then I guess this kid better start cutting some serious grass to raise money for his legal defense, and maybe forget about going to college; because I don’t know any 13 years old that have $150,000.

What Do You Buy if You Have More Money than Sense?

I think it is safe to say that times are tough, and that means that many of us have had to make some sort of sacrifices and/or re-prioritize our needs over our wants.  For example I need to continue to pay down my debt and that takes priority over my want for a bigger television.  In reality it is just commonsense, but for a better part of a decade most of us overindulged on our wants and now a return to a more sane living is in order.

These tougher times has made some out there a little upset, or bitter, at those who are more than a little better off than the rest of us, I guess it is because these people can actually afford to maintain the lifestyle that the rest of us were attempting to emulate through the use of credit (which is actually debt).  I suppose it is only human nature to begrudge those who might be better off than us, but there are those in the higher tax brackets who are cognizant of this change in attitude and have made a conscious effort to lower their profiles, by not flaunting their wealth as much.  This means that maybe they will forego buying that new private jet, or opt for the lowly Mercedes instead of the ostentatious Rolls Royce, etc. etc.  But what if you are so wealthy that none of this matters, or maybe, quite simply and honestly you just don’t care what the masses might think of you; what do you do then?

If you fall into that later category then there is a company based out of Austria that has created a product just for you.  The product is called the “Orsos Island” and it is, as the name implies, a manmade floating island; and it can be yours for the low, low price of $6.4 million.  Yeah, take that you plebes, toiling about in your workaday lives, as the well-heeled can now luxuriate on their floating island, which can be towed to whatever coastal locale they wish to sip their mimosas and bronze themselves as the plebes look on from the lowly community beaches.  I am of course being tongue in cheek there, but given the faltering European, ne global, economy I think it is safe to say that the timing of this company’s product release is a little dubious, but I am not a billionaire with more money than sense.

Moderate Drinking Improves Your Quality of Life

In a rather eye opening study, researchers at the University of Boston School of Medicine have found that individuals who drink moderately maintain a higher quality of life than those who have sworn off the booze altogether.  I’ll tell you when I first read that I initially confused a higher quality of life with a higher standard of living, and of course those are two totally different things.  One means owning fancier things than others and the other relates to one’s health, and it is the last one that the researchers are referring to.

We have often, if not always, been told that alcohol is bad, and drinking it can lead to bad things.  However, those warnings were typically directed at us when we were younger, and they were warning against the dangers of binge drinking (drinking to get drunk) and/or habitual drinking (drinking heavily and regularly) well this study has to do with the so called moderate drinkers.  A moderate drinker is someone who may have no more than 3 drinks a day for women or no more than 4 drinks a day for men.  Now I think it is safe to say that many of us have heard that moderate consumption of alcohol has shown to lower blood pressure, reducing one’s chance of a stroke or a heart attack, and that data is still believed to be true.  This study differs in that it focuses on the earlier mentioned “quality of life.”

The research was conducted on 5,404 Canadians at the age of 50 and they were followed for an undisclosed period of time.  According to the results from this study the researchers found that those subjects who drank in moderation (as defined above) showed better results in dexterity, emotion, cognition and mobility than the subjects who didn’t drink at all.  However the researchers found that subjects over the age of 50 showed similar qualities of life (dexterity, emotion, cognition and mobility) in all groups, in other words moderate alcohol consumption had no discernible benefits over those who didn’t drink.  I think I might go buy a bottle of wine tonight and improve my cognitive abilities; I mean I better take advantage of its benefits before I get too old for those benefits to exist anymore.

Genetically Engineered Grass May Have Killed Cows

Not to awfully long ago it seemed that science could and would make our world a veritable utopia, and it isn’t too hard to understand why.  For about 100 years, from 1850 to 1950 the advancement in pretty much everything happened in such a rapid pace to where there is no way you could fault anyone from thinking that utopia wasn’t too far off of the horizon.  Think about it, in that relatively short period of time mankind went from riding horses to flying jets, and we went from living in in homes heated with fire and cooled by opening windows to central heat and air, and through the discovery of penicillin and other medicines, it seemed that we were on the course of eliminating all diseases that could afflict us.  Yes, times were good and it seemed the future was limitless.

Well, fast forward to today, and there seems to be not so much a backlash, but at least a recognition that perhaps science’s meddling in something’s may not exactly yield the desired results, and in fact could actually introduce unintended consequences.  Take for example a recent mass death of cows in Central Texas.  According to early test results the mass die-off is being blamed on the grass that the cows were eating, and that would seem rather strange and disconcerting, considering the fact that cows eat grass.  However the grass that is so far being blamed as the culprit is not your typical, au natural kind of grass, it is a genetically engineered grass call Tifton 85.  To be fair this is not exactly a “new” strain of scientifically created grass, it has been in use, at least on this particular farm, for 15 years, but like a science experiment that goes wrong, al la Frankenstein’s monster, the grass appears to be emitting cyanide gas, thus poisoning the cattle.  While no one could or should argue that science hasn’t made our lives better in many respects, I think there is a growing number of people who can argue that maybe science shouldn’t try and “build a better mousetrap” when it comes to things like food, and the food our food eats.

Maine First Responders Practice for the Zombie Apocalypse

Not too long ago we heard the reports of Miami police shooting and killing a naked man who was chewing on the face of another man.  Shortly thereafter there were reports of similar acts of gruesomeness and before we knew it cyberspace was all atwitter with speculation that we were at the precipice of the zombie apocalypse many movies of various cheesiness have been warning us about.  While I am sure that many of those espousing that the end was nigh were doing so with their tongue firmly planted in their cheeks, the chatter became so incessant that it prompted the CDC to actually release a statement debunking/dispelling the existence of any pathogens that would reanimate the dead.

Well, apparently the state of Maine failed to get the CDC’s Memo, because they recently held exercises for their first responders and other emergency services agencies in which they had handle/deal/cope with a zombie apocalypse.  To be fair, it isn’t like Maine’s little exercise is a demonstration of the ignorance of that state’s officials.  The same CDC who had to release official statements debunking the existence and the possibility of a zombie apocalypse is also the agency that released a satirical essay on how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse just one year before the now infamous face chewing incident.

Now, I love a campy zombie flick as much as anyone and I would like to believe that I am smart enough to realize that the dead cannot, and will not come back to life seeking the brains of the living for sustenance, but I also love a good conspiracy theory too, and you have to admit that there are the ingredients here to construct a pretty damn good one.  In the name of fairness, I will let other’s take that ball and run with it.

Escape from Your Prison Cell and Win Free Food

Have you seen the movie “Escape from Alcatraz?”  If not, then most of you are no doubt somewhat familiar with the story.  Alcatraz was heralded as the most secure prison in the country, and was widely thought to be escape proof.  This was mostly because of its location; it sits on an island in middle of the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay, which is also known for its strong currents.  Well, 14 inmates attempted to escape from this inescapable prison, most were recaptured or killed in their attempts, but 3 inmates in 1962 did manage to get off the island, and they were never seen or heard from again, leading some to believe that they succeeded in their escape, while others think they drowned in the bay, and thus became the subject of the movie.

Prison escapes are nothing new, and most are not fully successful, however if the prison’s locks are known to malfunction it kind of defeats the idea of what a prison’s purpose.  That was the case in an Atlanta, GA area prison.  They were having issues where the locks would jam on the cells, thus allow the prisoners to get to each other – though not escape the prison itself.  Well, the prison replaced those faulty locks with new and improved locks, which will actually keep the inmates in their cells as intended.  However the story just doesn’t end there, the prison chief decided that to test these new locks’ effectiveness he offered a challenge to the inmates.  That challenge is for the inmates to try and defeat these new locks, and any of them who are successful will be rewarded with free food; isn’t that similar to the subject of another book and movie called “The Hunger Games?”  Typically I have little sympathy for the plight of prisoners, but this kind of does cross some ethical boundaries.

Treating Pathological Anger of Mice and Men

Researchers at the University of Southern California and in Italy have been working diligently to discover the causes of and then treat those causes of pathological anger, and they think they are on the right track.  These researchers have discovered that what may be the root cause of flying off the handle into a fit of rage is a malfunctioning brain receptor, thus the subject literally cannot control themselves from going into a red faced fit of ballistic anger.  The only thing is that their subjects are lab mice; so sorry to all of you animal rights activists.

As many of us know lab mice have been scientific research’s best human analog for many research studies, and have aided in the development of many treatments for illnesses and disorders in us humans, and this research is no different.  The researchers in this study and discovery in pathological anger disorders hope that because this is now found to be a brain disorder in many instances that it can be treated pharmaceutically.  Now before you start thinking that this is meant to treat anger issues in so called “normal” people (whatever normal is) the scientists are more focused on the anger issues that arise with those suffering from Alzheimer’s, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychological disorders.  The scientists say that the receptor in question that exists in mice also exists in humans and thus treatment should work for us too, and the malfunction in this receptor can be tied to crime and extremely hostile behavior in humans.  I think many of us would agree that treatment of those diagnosed with pathological anger disorders would be beneficial in helping to prevent some violent crimes.  Unfortunately though we may not know who is suffering from this brain receptor malfunction until after they have committed a violent crime — unless all of us are required to be tested for this malfunction, and those who are discovered to have it are then required to be treated, but that opens a whole other world of ethical issues for us human rights activists.