Os erros de Einstein | questões da ciência | Blogs [revista piauí] pra quem tem um clique a mais

Físicos profissionais e jornalistas de ciência são procurados com espantosa regularidade por indivíduos que afirmam ter descoberto furos na teoria da relatividade ou na mecânica quântica e que juram de pés juntos serem capazes de desmascarar as fraudes de Einstein e outros ícones da ciência.

São em geral físicos amadores – homens na maioria dos casos – que não têm vínculo com qualquer universidade ou centro de pesquisa. Ao abordar cientistas e jornalistas, eles buscam um atalho para apresentar as ideias que eles não encontram espaço para divulgar nos fóruns comumente usados pelos pesquisadores para apresentar suas ideias – as revistas e congressos científicos.

Um exemplo típico dessa fauna é o autor do cartaz retratado na foto abaixo. Por ocasião de um simpósio internacional no Rio de Janeiro, ele confeccionou um cartaz e passou o dia ao lado dele na frente do Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Físicas (CBPF), onde o evento era realizado.

“Preciso de ajuda e estou sendo discriminado”, dizia a introdução do cartaz, endereçado aos cientistas do CBPF e ao ministro da Ciência. “Fiz uma importante descoberta científica e tecnológica, e não me deixam mostrá-la. Ninguém acredita em mim. Descobri a maior fraude científica da história do conhecimento moderno. Preciso ser ouvido, avaliado e ajudado por estudiosos. Toda fraude um dia vem à tona e a de Einstein chegou ao fim.”

O texto seguia com mais detalhes dos “erros primários” de Einstein, numa caligrafia cada vez menor à medida que diminuía o espaço disponível no cartaz. O autor elencou as promissoras perspectivas de aplicação do seu achado na exploração espacial e concluiu com um apelo dramático: “Inteligências do Rio, onde estão vocês? Preciso de ajuda”.



The Adventures of Wound Man


Hugh Hefner comes out in support of gay marriage

In 1965 Indiana police arrested Charles Cotner and charged him with an “abominable and detestable crime against nature.” His offense? Consensual anal sex with his wife. He faced 14 years in prison. When I first learned about Cotner’s case—his attorney wrote to PLAYBOY to seek our assistance—I was appalled. His wife, who signed the complaint after the couple had argued, changed her mind and asked to have the charges dropped. But the judge refused, and Cotner served nearly three years in prison before the Playboy Foundation was able to free him.

While working to strike down absurd sex laws like the one that landed Cotner behind bars, I learned a lot about the people who want to control what goes on in American bedrooms. Those who oppose us have always had one thing in common: They are on a crusade to eliminate sex not intended for the purpose of procreation.

You might think this story has nothing to do with you or your life in America in 2012. But sadly you would be wrong. The forces that put Charles Cotner in jail are the same forces at work right now. If you want a perfect example, take a look at the controversy that continues to dog the rights of gay men and women to marry. The fight for gay marriage is, in reality, a fight for all of our rights. Without it, we will turn back the sexual revolution and return to an earlier, puritanical time.

I remember that time. When I wrote The Playboy Philosophy in the early 1960s, both oral and anal sex were illegal in 49 of the 50 states. In 10 of those states, sodomy—which was variously defined but could, in some states, include oral sex—carried a maximum sentence of 20 years. Citizens in Connecticut who engaged in oral sex faced 30 years in prison—60 years for people who lived in North Carolina. In Nevada it could mean life behind bars. It was a time when 37 states outlawed sex between unmarried people and 45 criminalized adultery. Two states even banned heavy petting.

This is the oppressive world some would have us return to. These moralists say that if sex doesn’t beget children, it’s a sin. Your sex life, your privacy rights and the rights of men and women everywhere are casualties of this belief. In Arizona, under a proposed bill women who hoped to have their health insurer cover birth control would have been forced to provide their employer with proof they were taking the pill for a medical condition—not just for the purpose of avoiding pregnancy. A new Kansas law allows a pharmacist to refuse to sell someone contraception on the grounds that such a sale could violate the pharmacist’s religious beliefs. Similar laws already exist in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota. Lawmakers in Michigan are pushing one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in decades, while in Texas and Pennsylvania people continue to demand the defunding of Planned Parenthood centers, which provide health care to countless women. Across America these conservatives continue to assault the rights of gays, whether by denying them the right to marry or, as in Kansas, by attempting to empower landlords, business owners and employers to discriminate against gays on religious grounds. And earlier this year, when a Republican legislator in Virginia told CNN “sodomy is not a civil right,” I thought of Charles Cotner and wondered how much time we have left before we lose all the advances of the sexual revolution.

Nearly 50 years ago in the pages of this magazine I warned that “when religion rather than reason dictates legislation, do not expect logic with your law.” Today, in every instance of sexual rights falling under attack, you’ll find legislation forced into place by people who practice discrimination disguised as religious freedom. Their goal is to dehumanize everyone’s sexuality and reduce us to using sex for the sole purpose of perpetuating our species. To that end, they will criminalize your entire sex life.

This is a religious nation, but it is also a secular one. For decades the American people have found a way to balance religious beliefs with secular freedoms. We have enjoyed freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion. These need not be incompatible. No one should have to subjugate their religious freedom, and no one should have their personal freedoms infringed. This is America and we must protect the rights of all Americans.


Nepalese snake bites man. Man bites snake to death | World news | guardian.co.uk

A Nepalese man who was bitten by a cobra snake bit it back and killed the reptile in a tit-for-tat attack, it has been reported. The Nepali newspaper Annapurna Post said that Mohamed Salmo Miya chased the snake, which bit him while he was in his rice paddy earlier this week, caught it and bit it until it died.

“I could have killed it with a stick but bit it with my teeth instead because I was angry,” Miya, 55, who lives in a village 125 miles south-east of the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, was quoted on Thursday as saying. The snake, called “goman” in Nepal, is also known as the common cobra.

A police official, Niraj Shahi, said the man, who was being treated at a village health post and was not in danger of dying, would not be charged with killing the snake because the animal was not among reptile species listed as endangered in Nepal.

via | guardian.co.uk.

David Rakoff – Cryonics: Big Issues: GQ

Death is the numinous presence that hovers over the fifth Extreme Life Extension Conference. The three-day meeting is sponsored by Alcor, the Arizona cryonics company that has put the body of Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams in cryogenic suspension, in the hope he may one day rise again. Like worshipers at a weekend-long Easter Mass, about 150 scientists and acolytes have gathered to hear the Good News about the latest developments in securing their own resurrections and immortality. Here, death is viewed as little more than a nuisance, a persistent gnat to be batted away. Death is certainly not going to ruin anyone’s fun. As chairman Ralph Merkle, a nanotechnologist from Palo Alto, California, said when he kicked things off, “This conference is about, by and for people who think life is a pretty good thing and that more life is better.” Even the landscape surrounding the hotel seems imbued with optimism: rolling manicured lawns, palm trees and flower beds planted with murderously orange canna lilies, sloping gently down to the emerald golf links of Orange County.

Freitas continues: “This holocaust we call natural death produces 2.4 million deaths annually in the United States alone. The human death toll in 2001 was nearly 55 million people. The worst disasters in human history pale in comparison to natural death.” Freitas goes on to liken the richness of each person—his knowledge as opposed to, say, the street value of his hair and gold fillings—to the equivalent of at least one book. That’s a “destruction” equivalent to three Libraries of Congress per year. Further, if you agree that some people are more than one book, then it’s even more devastating. If, however, you feel that some folks’ book is The Prince of Tides, or that others of us add up to all the complexity of a document, frequently pink, titled “While You Were Out,” then it’s a tragedy of lesser magnitude.

Like many here, Freitas is a nanotechnologist. Nanotechnology is the Holy Grail of what’s to come for cryonics—the thing that will make bringing patients out of cryosuspension possible. He talks about a future in which an array of intelligent nanodevices will be dispatched into our bodies like so many Fantastic Voyage Raquel Welches, their sole mission our intracorporeal perfection. Many of the methods he cites are theoretically feasible: chromosome-replacement therapy (microscopic cell-by-cell damage repair); respirocytes (artificial red blood cells that would enable us to sink to the bottom of a pool and hold our breath for four hours); microbivores (artificial white blood cells that would be one hundred times more effective than the real thing). All of these, says Freitas, could potentially restore us to the perfection of our youth.

“A rollback to the physiology of your late teens might be easier than your 10-year-old self,” he says, “and more fun. We could live about 900 years.” A terrifying prospect, since everyone else would also be 18 again, and that ruthless food chain of those miserable years would reign once more. Only this time, high school would be nine centuries long. That’s close to a millennium’s worth of blackheads.

The grand fantasy of cheating death, the underlying myth at the heart of this conference, is as old as humanity itself. Most every culture has a cautionary tale about some soul who aspires to godlike immortality and is brought low as a result. Not surprisingly, the disastrous hubris of Icarus is not invoked here. What is brought up repeatedly as a worthy precedent is a letter Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend in 1773: “I should prefer to an ordinary death, being immersed with a few friends in a cask of Madeira wine, until that time, then to be recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country!”

The intervening twenty-three decades since Franklin’s missive have done little to make that dream practical.


Faking insanity: Forensic psychologists detect signs of malingering.

When someone commits a horrific, inexplicable crime, we naturally wonder whether he’s mentally ill: Who but a crazy person could do such a thing? But when a killer acts crazy after his arrest, we also might wonder whether he’s preparing for his trial. That’s the speculation around Colorado shooter James Holmes, whose psychiatric treatment and bizarre behavior in court and prison make people wonder whether he’s truly insane or building a case for an insanity defense. It leads to the question: Can a criminal get away with faking insanity?

Experts have been debating that question since the creation of the insanity defense in the mid-19th century. To avoid the noose or the guillotine, criminals of the era would fake symptoms from the then-emerging field of psychology. It soon became a cat-and-mouse game: Criminals would act out their understanding of insane behaviors, and alienists (the era’s term for psychologists) would write studies on how to detect those “malingerers.” Most techniques relied on the investigators’ experience and powers of observation—looking for inconsistencies in symptoms, waiting until the suspect tired of the game, or simply catching a telltale look in his eye. As the Austrian criminologist Hans Gross wrote: “The shammer, when he thinks no one is looking, casts a swift and scrutinizing glance on the Investigating Officer to see whether or not he believes him.”

Today, less than 1 percent of felony defendants raise an insanity defense, and a tiny fraction of those succeed. Yet in a state like Colorado, where proving insanity can avert a death sentence, the temptation to appear mentally ill must be strong. And so modern forensic psychologists, just like their forebears, watch for malingering with a sharp clinical eye. They determine whether the symptoms match those of well-studied pathologies and whether the signs remain consistent over time. They also can apply a battery of tests that essentially fake-out the faker.

The first step is to do a thorough review of the suspect’s history. Mental illness doesn’t develop overnight, so it’s important to know if the person has been hospitalized or treated for similar symptoms. The investigators also review the crime-scene report. If the suspect has hidden the weapon, washed off his fingerprints, or taken other steps to elude the police, it’s a sign of clear thinking—not mental illness.

Then come one or more long, rambling interviews—the longer the better, because after a few hours, some suspects begin to lose track of their symptoms or grow weary of the con. Phillip J. Resnick, professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, says he asks the suspect to talk at length about his history before saying a word about the crime, to lessen the chance of “retrofitting” a pattern of alleged illness to the deed. He and his colleagues listen carefully for signs of particular mental illnesses.

“Most malingerers don’t read the psychological literature,” says Tali Walters, a Boston forensic psychologist, so they present a Hollywood version of how a crazy person acts.

For example, some suspects claim to hear voices in their head that they’re powerless to resist, a commonly dramatized depiction of schizophrenia. Unlike what we see in the movies, most auditory hallucinations are benign; they seem to originate outside the head (not inside), and rarely come from aliens or other non-human beings. Only a small percentage are “command hallucinations,” and even fewer command a violent act. Furthermore, genuine schizophrenics find strategies to ignore these voices, or even make peace with them. They learn that certain activities, such as exercise, mute the voices; while others, such as watching TV, encourage them—the “voice” can’t seem to resist commenting on what it sees.

So if a suspect says he feels compelled to obey alien voices inside his head telling him to kill, there’s a good chance he’s feigning. Case in point: David Berkowitz, aka “Son of Sam,” who shot six people in a three-year murder spree in New York. Berkowitz claimed that he was following the commands of a demon-possessed Labrador retriever, but later admitted it was a hoax. “A dog,” says Resnick, “is not a typical [auditory] hallucination.”

Malingerers often exaggerate their symptoms and ignore common, subtle signs such as the blunting of a mentally ill patient’s emotions. Some fakers say one thing and do another. They might feign confusion to the psychiatrist but later converse easily with cell-mates, or claim to be paranoid while sitting at ease. Some combine symptoms from different conditions, such as hallucinations of schizophrenia and obscene outbursts found in Tourette’s syndrome. The forensic psychologist may suggest an outrageous delusion during the interview, such as, “Do you believe cars are part of an organized religion?” Fakers might latch onto this bait and perhaps even run with it. Real schizophrenics would say no.


Peter Christopherson: The Million Dollar Altar

That’s one of the things about music that fascinates me most—how combinations of basic mathematical frequencies take on such extraordinary emotional power and suggest such meaning. I mean, how do—what are basically just sequences of vibrating tones at certain specific numeric values—make us all feel like they do? And not only that but why do we all, regardless of our cultural or ethnic origins, hearing a certain chord or tone, feel the more or less the same? I guess Jhonn was right: Angels ARE mathematical, after all.


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