With This DNA Dating App, You Swab, Then Swipe For Love

Christopher Plata doesn’t have time or patience for bad dates anymore. The 30 year-old nursing student has been trying for years to meet Mr. Right—first on Grindr and Compatible Partners (eHarmony’s queer subsidiary), and more recently on Bumble—and has yet to find someone with whom he shares a real connection. “I’ve really been through the wringer,” he says. So in December, while he was attending Houston’s Day For Night music festival, he stopped by a booth hawking cheek swabs, and handed over a few thousand cheek cells in the name of love.

The booth belonged to Pheramor, a Houston-based online dating startup that claims to use your DNA as the secret sauce in its matchmaking formulation. The company launched today in its home metropolis, with plans to soon expand to other US cities. Its app, which is available for iOS and Android, is a sort of 23andMe meets Tinder meets monogamists.

Of course, sexual chemistry isn’t just about deoxyribonucleic acid. And so in addition to the 11 “attraction genes” Pheramor uses to suss out biological compatibility, the company also encourages users to connect its app with all their social media profiles, to be data-mined for personality traits and mutual interests.

It works like this: For $19.99 (plus a $10 monthly membership fee), Pheramor will ship you a kit to swab your cheeks, which you then send back for sequencing. The company will combine that information with personality traits and interests gleaned from your profile to populate your app with a carousel of genetically and socially optimized potential mates in your area. To discourage mindless swiping, each match shows up as a blurred photo with a score of your compatibility, between 0 and 100.

For some 40 million Americans like Plata, who have yet to find lasting love online, it’s a tantalizing prospect. But the science behind genetic attraction is shaky ground to build a relationship on, let alone a commercial enterprise. Sure, it might sound more solid than all the mushy behavioral psychology smoke and mirrors you get from most dating apps. It’s biology, after all! But experts say that’s just a nice hook—to satisfy a cultural desire for objectivity, even in our romantic pursuits. Love, even in 2018, can’t be reduced to your genes.

Attraction is a complicated bit of calculus. You’ve got your socioeconomic factors plus race and culture and politics and religion multiplied by what sorts of relationships you had with your parents and siblings growing up. But is there a part of the equation that is purely biological?

Pheramor—and some biologists stretching back two decades—say yes. According to them, it all comes down to pheromones. On its website, the company explains that people are more likely to be attracted to one another the more different their DNA is. “The way species can ‘sense’ how different the DNA is in a potential mate is through smelling their pheromones,” states the site’s science section.

That is a lovely story. “But the reality is that there’s no scientific evidence for something called a pheromone,” says Richard Doty, who studies smell and taste at the University of Pennsylvania. Bacteria is the single biggest determinant of body odor, he notes, and preferences for smells are to a large degree learned, subject to cultural differences.“The notion that there are these magical genes that are somehow associated with smells that permeate the environment and dictate our attraction to people is total nonsense. If human pheromones actually elicited the kinds of behaviors we see in other mammals the subways of New York City would be in a constant state of mayhem with people hopping all over each other.”

In a 2015 review of the scientific literature on pheromones published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, University of Oxford zoologist Tristram Wyatt came to much the same conclusion. “Pheromones have really caught the public imagination, particularly in association with sex or desire,” he says. “But the bottom line is that for the present it’s still true to say that no human pheromone has ever been robustly demonstrated, and certainly not chemically identified.”

So if they don’t exist, how did wind of human pheromones reach the public in the first place? It comes down to a few popular studies, which Pheramor also touts on its website. The most famous are the “Sweaty T-Shirt Experiments.” Conducted by a Swiss evolutionary biologist named Claus Wedekind in the mid-90s, the studies involved a handful of college students with unshaved armpits wearing cotton t-shirts for a few days in a row, then handing them over to other college students to sniff and rate on intensity and pleasantness. It found that women who were not on the pill were more likely to select the shirts of men who had the greatest genetic difference in a certain area of chromosome six—one that codes for something called the major histocompatibility complex, or MHC.

MHC proteins are responsible for helping the immune system recognize invaders, and the idea of linking these immune system genes with sexual attraction goes all the way back to 1976. Scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering found that male mice tended to choose female partners with the most dissimilar MHC genes, which the researchers guessed were detected through scent. The leap to the T-shirt tests, then, was that since humans also chose partners with greater MHC gene variety, they must also be using smell, even if unconsciously.

It’s a selection of these MHC genes, 11 of them, that Pheramor is comparing when it looks at its users’ DNA. When I asked co-founder and CEO Asma Mirza which pheromones those genes were connected to, she demurred. “We don’t really look at the pheromones, that’s something that gets confusing for people,” she said. “I’m a chemist and I can tell you that pheromones are a big black box. We know they exist and that somehow these 11 genes are linked to them, but we don’t know how. That’s why we’re swabbing cheeks, not armpits.”

To be fair, a series of unrelated papers published in the mid-2000s have provided further evidence that women can detect differences in the MHC genotypes of males according to smell, even though no scientist has yet been able to pin down what exactly those olfactory cues are. And on account of costs, no one has yet screened entire genomes, to see if the “opposites attract” maxim applies beyond this one little area of one little chromosome. So for now, the MHC remains the top contender for genetic attraction.

But experts like Wyatt say the science behind matching you with someone who has different immune system genes remains theoretical. He cites the International HapMap project, which mapped genetic variations from thousands of people around the globe, including many husbands and wives. When two different research groups went to look at MHC differences between couples, one found an effect, and one didn’t. “You’d expect things to be more clear-cut if this really was a dominant way people choose partners,” Wyatt says.

Even if the science is murky, people are still eager for anything that could give them an edge in the digital dating pool. Pheramor is launching with about 3,000 users in Houston, with plans to begin expanding to Austin next month and Boston later this year. While the DNA stuff might be a draw for some, many others are attracted to the ease of not having to fill out a million questions or set up another generic profile. Instead, Pheramor’s technology will autopopulate one for you, based on all your likes and posts and hashtags on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It will even help you choose the most statistically successful kinds of selfies.

You can still manually edit the profile, if, like Mirza experienced, some outdated information comes up. “When I connected mine it said my favorite movie was Big Fat Liar, which I must have posted in high school,” she says. “It was pretty embarrassing, there were a lot of things I deleted.” But the idea is that your cyberfootprint on social media, which for some people is already a decade old, has way more data points than any personality test you could ever take.

And Pheramor is only going to be collecting more. In a few months the company will roll out a new feature called Second Date, which will track users locations and know if they meet up with one of their matches. The app will then push out a survey to see how the date went. If both parties answer positively, it will suggest that you go out again. The feature will also let Pheramor know if you liked that sort of person, so it can serve you more profiles of similar folks. "We're trying to use sociological data to make this a better experience," says Mirza.

That’s the part that gives people like Luke Stark pause. The Dartmouth digital technology sociologist cautions how apps like Tinder and perhaps Pheramor take advantage of the fact that people can’t see or feel their data, so they’re easily lured into giving it away. “The broader privacy concern with something like this is that the public doesn’t yet realize all the behavioral data they’re providing voluntarily can be used to build these personality profiles that can then be sold,” he says. “At this point personality tests and social media data are functionally the same.”

While Pheramor’s privacy policy reserves the right to sell user information to third parties, Mirza says that’s just to protect themselves legally. The only organization they sell data to, she says, is a large cancer registry. You see, those same immune genes purportedly responsible for attraction also determine whether or not someone can be a blood stem cell donor for people suffering from disorders like leukemia, lymphoma, and sickle cell disease. Pheramor gives all its users the option to consent to being part of the registry. “What’s cooler than fighting heartbreak and cancer at the same time?” she says. Judging by the science so far, our bet's on curing cancer first.

Genetic Genies

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/with-this-dna-dating-app-you-swab-then-swipe-for-love/

Aly Raisman sues U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics for lack of action against Nassar

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman files lawsuit over Larry Nassar abuse.
Image: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for DirecTV

Aly Raisman, Olympic gold medalist and role model empowering women to speak out against harassment, is suing the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics for lack of action taken against former team physician Larry Nassar.

After Raisman and more than 100 women spoke out and filed civil actions against Nassar, saying he had continually sexually assaulted them during treatment sessions over the years, he was sentenced to 40-to-175 years in prison for seven charges and 40-to-125 years for three additional charges. But in the months leading up to Nassar’s sentencing, Raisman called out the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics for not doing more to stop the physician from harming people.

The gymnast is now suing the two organizations, alleging they should have taken more action to prevent the abuse and conducted a thorough investigation, NBC News reported.

The lawsuit, filed in California, alleges that both U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics had knowledge of Nassar’s history of past sexual abuse against minors but let the mandatory treatment of her and many other young women take place for years.

Despite the organizations being notified of his behavior, Raisman said Nassar was never punished and no one with the direct power to do so intervened in the situation. In fact, the lawsuit claims that when Maggie Nichols, a national team member, reported the abuse to USA Gymnastics in 2015, the organization took more than a month to alert the FBI. The document also claims that USA Gymnastics did not alert Michigan State University, where Nassar was also practicing medicine, of the situation at the time.

“After all this time, they remain unwilling to conduct a full investigation, and without a solid understanding of how this happened, it is delusional to think sufficient changes can be implemented,” Raisman said in a statement to NBC News. “I refuse to wait any longer for these organizations to do the right thing. It is my hope that the legal process will hold them accountable and enable the change that is so desperately needed.”

Raisman also said she still experiences depression, anxiety, and fear to this day as a result of Nassar’s abuse.

The lawsuit comes weeks after the USA Gymnastics board resigned amid the scandal. U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun’s resignation was also announced on Feb. 28, citing health issues, and the committee is launching a new set of guidelines to ensure athletes are protected in the future.

In addition to the two sentences for sexual assault charges, Nassar was also sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes. Ultimately, Nassar got what amounts to a life sentence. As part of a plea deal, Nassar agreed to listen to victim impact statements from women and girls who reported abuse. More than 250 told their stories during sentencing hearings in two Michigan counties.

You can read Raisman’s full lawsuit against the USOC and USA Gymnastics here.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/03/02/aly-raisman-sues-usa-gymnastics-usoc-over-larry-nassar/

The CDC Can’t Fund Gun Research. What if that Changed?

America doesn't have good data on guns. Blame the Dickey amendment. First introduced in 1996, the legislation didn't ban gun investigations explicitly (it forbade the use of federal dollars in the advocacy or promotion of gun control), but Congress that year also cut the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the exact amount it had previously devoted to firearm research. It's had a chilling effect on the field ever since. (While some states and private foundations are conducting peer reviewed studies on gun violence, the federal government has been AWOL.) That means policymakers in Washington have little information about what causes gun violence, how it can be prevented or reduced, and who is most at risk.

But that could change. The February 14 killings in Parkland, Florida led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to consider repealing the Dickey amendment and resuming government-backed gun-research. Which raises a pressing question: If the CDC were to resume funding studies on the epidemiology of firearm violence, what questions would they want to answer right now?

"We don't know enough about the risk factors, for either the perpetrators or victims of gun violence," says Garen Wintemute, an ER physician and director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program.

Wintemute says that one of the big predictors of future gun violence is a history of other forms of violence, like domestic abuse. But connecting the dots between prior behavior and future threat is difficult—especially on an individual basis. That said, researchers think that by identifying early signals and studying them more closely, they could help police and social service agents make better decisions about when to intervene.

He also wants to study the psychological impact that high rates of gun violence can have on communities. Does living in place where gunfire or gun violence is common make someone more or less likely to use a gun in the future? Social scientists say they don't know the answer yet.

As for preventing the next mass shooting, experts say they don't know enough about the effectiveness of proposed interventions. Take, for instance, the "gun restraining order" laws recently enacted in California, Oregon and Washington. Such regulations allow family members as well as law enforcement to ask a judge to confiscate guns from people deemed to pose "a serious risk of harm." (In San Diego County, ten gun owners recently received court orders to surrender their weapons under the new law.) It sounds like a good idea in theory, but to expand such laws to other states, or the federal level, policymakers would need to make a case for their effectiveness. And at least for now, the data on whether the laws have a measurable impact on either suicides or murders just doesn't exist.

“There isn’t any information other than anecdotal,” says Shannon Frattaroli, associate professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Frattaroli says a key factor, when it comes to studying the effectiveness of firearm policies, is being able to follow weapons. One way to track how violence spreads is by tracing implicated weapons to their source. In big cities plagued by gun violence, these weapons are often bought and sold illegally. "We need to understand where guns are coming from, how they get from the legal market to the hands of people who are prohibited to purchase them," Frattaroli says. "That’s important to know if we want to get a handle on the flow of guns."

Doing so will require a lot more money, time, and resources than researchers currently possess. That’s where the CDC might serve as both a deep-pocketed grant-making agency, as well as a clearinghouse for various databases on gun violence and gun ownership. A boost in funding would also attract more and better scientists to the field, whose numbers have dwindled since the Dickey amendment went into effect. “As I recruit new investigators, it has been a critical question for applicants: 'Will I have a job in a couple years, or will I have to look for a job in another field because there’s no funding,'" Wintemute says.

Social scientist and ER docs like Frattaroli and Wintemute are encouraged by the possibility that Congress might direct the CDC to renew gun research. President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Alex Azar, said the day after the Florida shootings that he backs such efforts. But this shift might take a while. The agency has been without a leader since January, when director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned after news reports that she purchased tobacco stocks after taking office. Any big change in the status quo of the amendment—and more money for gun violence research—will probably have to wait for a change in control of Congress.

Gun Shy

  • The United States has never funded a research center to study gun violence—so last year, California started one on its own.

  • If the CDC's commitment to gun violence research expands, it could be a surprise to these researchers, who raced to protect the little data they had from the Trump administration.

  • If it doesn't, though, researchers will continue to find novel ways to work around their utter lack of data, like this group that rifled through old gun magazines for information.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/what-if-the-cdc-could-fund-gun-research/

Inside the Mind of Amanda Feilding, Countess of Psychedelic Science

Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss and March, also known as Lady Neidpath, sits cross-legged on a bench on a tiny island at the center of an artificial pond in her English country estate, a 15-minute drive outside of Oxford. At her feet is a tiny pure-white cloud of a dog, which traipses around chewing on the grass, only occasionally coughing it up.

Feilding is 75 years old. She wears a black skirt and knee-high boots and grips a tan shawl around her shoulders, on account of this being a gray November morning. From her ears hang jewelry that looks like green rock candy. Her light brown hair is frizzy but not altogether unkempt.

In the distance, peeking over a towering hedge, is her castle, built in the 1520s. “In the ’60s we called it Brainblood Hall,” she says in a posh accent that periodically turns sing-songy and high, à la Julia Child. “We always saw it as the masthead from where this change would happen.”

Feilding now lives in the castle in the English countryside where she was raised.

Ren Rox for WIRED

This change being the de-villainization of lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD. Feilding believes LSD has tremendous potential to treat maladies like anxiety and depression and addiction. The theory goes that the drug can manipulate blood flow in the brain to “reset” what you might consider to be the ego, allowing patients to reconceptualize their issues. Hence Brainblood Hall.

If LSD is having its renaissance, Feilding is its Michelangelo. She works 15 hours a day, seven days a week, to coordinate—and contribute to—research on one of the most highly controlled substances on Earth. And not with any old dumpy university she can find—we’re talking big names, like Imperial College London. Study by study, each following rigorous research standards, Feilding is building a case for making LSD a standard weapon in the clinical fight against mental illness. It's a path, though, that's fraught with scientific pitfalls—researchers are just beginning to understand how the human brain works, much less the mechanisms behind psychedelics.

The fact that psychedelics ended up as pariah drugs “is an example, in a way, of man's madness,” she says, toying with the edges of her shawl. “There are these incredible compounds that synergize amazingly well with the human body and can be used to have incredibly positive results. And what do we do? We criminalize it.”

To change that, she won’t just have to upend decades of draconian drug policies. She’ll have to convince a public that has, for a half-century, been told that LSD is a great evil, a drug that makes people put flowers in their hair and jump out of windows. And Feilding will have to use science to convince policymakers that her hunch is right, that LSD and other psychedelics can be a force for good.

Which would be hard for anyone to pull off, but Feilding faces the extra hurdle of not being a classically trained scientist. “Immediately if you say you left school at 16 and self-educated thereafter, people don’t believe you can do anything,” she says. “It's a funny thing.”

Typical 12th-Century Stuff

Feilding is a descendant of the Hapsburg family, a dynasty that rose to great power in the 12th century. I ask her how—typical 12th-century stuff? “Typical 12th-century stuff,” she laughs. “Duffing over someone”—a Britishism for giving a beating—“and, funny enough, someone did a family tree and the number of people, I keep meaning to underline them and put a little red star on the ones who had their heads cut off. There was really quite a lot of people having their heads cut off.”

Feilding’s branch of the Hapsburg family tree wasn’t so much the let’s-rule-the-world-and-make-lots-of-money kind of royalty. More of a stick-it-to-the-man vibe. “One was going to be executed around the Gunpowder Plot, and then his wife went to visit him and they swapped clothes,” she says. “He got out the day before his execution. I mean, they were all rather nice antiestablishment personalities.”

But they were not particularly doers, Feilding adds. And, generally speaking, to maintain a dynasty you have to at least care about cash flow. “If you spend 500 years kind of reading and doing interesting things and not making money, it tends to run out,” she says.

Accordingly, Feilding grew up in a manor her parents couldn’t afford to heat. Her father liked painting during the day, which meant he needed to do farming and chores around the castle at night. “Cutting all those wretched hedges, he had to do himself,” she says. “And he was diabetic and he’d always do them just before meal time and pass out. He was always passing out.”

Feilding adored her father and scrambled everywhere after him. “He never went by what an authority said. He always went with his own thoughts,” she says. “In a way he was quite a big guru to me. He was my main intellectual influence.”

It was a loving yet isolated family that lived in difficult postwar times. Few visitors made the trek over bumpy roads to the edge of a marshland to appreciate the castle’s wall-to-wall artworks and exquisite furniture and precariously low door frames—at least by modern standards of human height. So Feilding immersed herself in reading and, as always, chasing after her father. She had mystical experiences, like imagining she was flying down the castle’s spiral staircase. But with no hot water or heating in the mansion, winters were brutal. “I suppose we were vaguely called impoverished aristocracy,” she says.

Feilding grew up in a manor her parents couldn’t afford to heat.

Ren Rox for WIRED

At 16, Feilding was studying in a convent and wanted to pursue her interest in mysticism. The nuns declined her request and instead gave her books on art. She wouldn’t stand for this. So with her parents’ blessing, Feilding dropped out of high school and set off abroad to find her godfather, Bertie Moore, whom she had never met. She figured he could teach her about mysticism: He had been a spy catcher during the war, but at this point was a Buddhist monk living in Sri Lanka.

Feilding headed toward Sri Lanka and ended up in Syria. Stuck at the border without a passport, a group of drunk, big-deal Bedouins came to her rescue. “We got into this Cadillac and all the people were completely drunk,” she says. “They asked me if I could drive it”—indeed she could—“and we drove out into the desert and then we went to encampments and they all brought out their cushions and feasts.”

Feilding—photographed in 1970 with her pet pigeon, Birdie—began experimenting with LSD in the mid-1960s.

Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss

She never made it to Sri Lanka to find Bertie, and after half a year abroad Feilding returned to the UK to study mysticism with Robert Charles Zaehner, the famous scholar, at All Souls College in Oxford. Before long she made her way to the swinging London of the Beatles, the Kinks, the mods, and the miniskirt. In 1965, Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti crashed on the floor of her flat after the Wholly Communion poetry happening at Royal Albert Hall.

Later that year, someone spiked the 22-year-old Feilding’s coffee with a massive dose of LSD. It nearly broke her. She retreated to the castle in the country to recuperate but returned to London a month later at the insistence of a friend.

This is when Feilding met the man who would shape her thinking on LSD and consciousness and mental health: the Dutch natural scientist Bart Huges. The two fell in love and began experimenting with LSD, leading them to think about it in a fundamentally different way. The counterculture at the time had embraced the drug as a way to expand consciousness. All well and good. But Feilding and Huges wanted to go deeper, to explore the use of LSD as a kind of medicine for the brain. Even after the spiked coffee incident, Feilding grew fascinated with the physiological underpinnings of the drug, as well as its potential.

“I thought that LSD had the power to change the world,” she says. “That was our work, understanding the ego and the deficiencies of humans and how one might heal and treat them with altered states of consciousness.” And not just with LSD, mind you, but also yoga and fasting, anything that would (in theory) manipulate blood flow in the brain. Including the ancient practice of drilling a hole in your skull.

Blood Oath

By the time Feilding discovered LSD, it had been around for decades—the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann synthesized the drug in 1938. It wasn’t until five years later, though, that he would accidentally dose himself—he reckoned he absorbed the drug through his skin—and discover its profound effects on the mind. “In a dreamlike state,” he wrote to a colleague at the time, “with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.”

Hofmann wrote in his autobiography that he recognized both the drug’s dangers and its potential in psychiatry—very, very well-supervised psychiatry. But because LSD produced “unfathomably uncanny, profound effects, so unlike the character of a recreational drug,” he never fathomed that it would turn into the phenomenon that it did. “The more its use as an inebriant was disseminated, bringing an upsurge in the number of untoward incidents caused by careless, medically unsupervised use,” he wrote, “the more LSD became a problem child for me.”

It also became a problem for the United States government. Even though early studies on LSD in the 1940s and ’50s hinted at its therapeutic potential—and, indeed, psychiatrists were already treating patients with it—the feds branded it a schedule 1 drug, the most tightly controlled category, and the world followed in its prohibition.

“LSD getting out put the research back 50 years,” Feilding says. “I think there was misuse of it, and there were accidents, but, my goodness me, there weren’t many.”

The drug’s dark ages, though, are now giving way to a new era of psychedelics research, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Beckley Foundation, a think tank that Feilding runs here in the Oxford countryside, as well as California’s Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS. Both groups are not only pursuing the scientific research of psychedelics, but political action as well. That is, they advocate the worldwide relaxation of what they see as an unnecessarily restrictive grip on the use of potentially therapeutic drugs.

Potentially. The problem with a psychedelic like LSD is you can show what it does to people—namely, it makes them trip, sometimes very hard—but science knows little about how these drugs produce those effects. One recent study found that an LSD trip can last a good long while because when the drug binds to serotonin receptors, a lid closes over it, trapping the molecules. All well and good, but the bigger picture is still a mystery: What does LSD do to the brain to induce something users call ego dissolution, a sort of breaking down of the self?

Feilding advocates the worldwide relaxation of what she sees as an unnecessarily restrictive grip on the use of potentially therapeutic drugs.

Ren Rox for WIRED

Feilding believes the secret is the blood flow in what’s known as the default mode network, an interconnected group of structures in the brain. The thinking is that the DMN is what governs the ego, or the sense of self. “That’s where psychedelics come in and shake it up,” Feilding says, “reducing the blood supply to the default mode network,” thus releasing the ego’s grip on the brain.

In 2016 Feilding coauthored a paper with scientists at Imperial College London showing the first images of the brain on LSD. And indeed, it seems the drug dampens communication between the components of the DMN, in turn dampening the ego to produce that feeling of “oneness with the universe” that LSD is so famous for. Or so the theory goes.

But Feilding’s coauthor differs with her on the mechanism responsible for the effect. “I think blood flow is a little bit of a sideshow,” says Robin Carhart-Harris, a neuropsychopharmacologist at the Imperial College. “The brain doesn't fundamentally work through flowing blood. That’s part of it, but we know that the function is electrical, and so why don’t we measure the electrical signals?”

Which is not to say blood flow isn’t a piece of the puzzle. In that study, the measurement of blood flow worked as a complement to measurement of electrical signals, the bit that Carhart-Harris is really after. “In our forthcoming studies we've decided to drop the blood flow because of this concern that I have that it can take you off the scent,” Carhart-Harris says. “I think it’s a primitive view of how the brain works.”

But Feilding remains convinced that blood flow is the key to psychedelics. (Not that the electrical signals aren’t important. “I love neural patterns,” she says.) Recall that she works out of what in the ’60s she called Brainblood Hall. And blood is what drove her to undergo a bizarre and controversial procedure called a trepanation, in which you drill a hole in your skull to theoretically increase cerebral circulation. It’s an ancient practice that’s popped up across world cultures, usually for the treatment of headaches or head trauma. This, as you can imagine, is not backed by science.

Most people, though, wouldn’t perform the procedure on themselves. But in 1970, Feilding sat in front of a camera and drilled into the top of her forehead. “I share the film now,” she narrates in the film of the process, “in the hope that it may attract the attention of some doctor able and willing to start the essential research into the subject, without which it will not become an accepted practice, available in the national health to anyone who wants it.” (Feilding implores people to never perform their own trepanation.)

Five decades later, that research has yet to emerge, and trepanation is both unproven and dangerous, very much not a recommended practice among medical professionals. “I don't think it's a mad, scary thing,” Feilding says. “I think it's very likely to have a physiological base, which I'm going to research.”

Why now and not decades ago? “Trepanation is more taboo even than LSD, so I'm going from the base to the top of the taboo ranking,” she says with a laugh.

Three decades after her self-trenapation, a brain surgeon in Mexico performed another trepanation on Feilding. She admits the supposed effects it produces are subtle—a boost in energy, for example. “It could obviously be placebo,” she says. “How does one know? Placebo is so strong. But I noticed things like my dreams became less anxious.”

The decor of Feilding’s cavernous mansion includes a human skull drilled through with six holes.

Ren Rox for WIRED

Really, trepanation is her sidequest, another way to approach the manipulation of blood flow in the brain. LSD is Feilding’s calling. LSD unleashed—not in the acid-in-every-liquor-store kind of way but, rather, as part of a new era of psychedelic therapy.

Bad Brains

This is the future of therapy as Feilding sees it: You enter a clinic with your mind in a certain unwanted setting. Perhaps you’re ruminating over some kind of trauma. You meet with a therapist and do a relatively large dose of LSD, followed by smaller doses down the line, known as microdosing. (This has come into vogue of late, especially among Silicon Valley types who believe a minute dose of LSD makes them more creative without all the pesky hallucinations.)

“You need the peak experience to break through and change the setting,” Feilding says. “And then the microdose experience can give a little booster along the way and make it more energetic and vital and a bit more lively.”

Which sounds like something the authorities wouldn’t be so keen on. But medical officials in the UK and the US and elsewhere have actually been giving permission to study psychedelics of late. Still, the red tape is a nightmare, as are the costs. “There are three institutions in England which have a safe that can store psychoactive controlled substances,” Feilding says. “And then you’re meant to weigh them every week and have two people guarding the door. It's insane. But I think it's breaking down a little bit, and the more good results we can bring in, the better.”

In the States, too, research on psychedelics is humming along. The MAPS organization, for instance, is entering phase three of clinical trials—tests on humans comparing the drug to a placebo—using MDMA to treat PTSD.

What’s happening is the authorities in the US and UK seem to be coming around to the potential of psychedelics, probably because it’s too politically stupid not to. If MDMA does turn out to help treat PTSD, and indeed MAPS’ research so far suggests it does, opposing its use in therapy would be tantamount to opposing the mental well-being of veterans and active duty troops. (The thinking goes that MDMA lowers the fear response, allowing patients to reconceptualize their traumatizing memories under the supervision of a therapist.)

Again, doing this research is still a tremendous pain, but at least scientists can do it. “Before I was limited by not being able to get ethical approvals,” Feilding says. “But now theoretically it’s possible—with great trouble and vastly extra costs. I mean, they are more carefully controlled than nuclear weapons. It is mad.”

The Countess of Psychedelics

In the cavernous living room of Feilding’s mansion—near the giant fireplace, on top of a beautiful cabinet, next to a still-more-beautiful cabinet of tiny drawers atop the main cabinet—is a human skull drilled through with six holes. It’s the remains of an ancient human who for whatever reason went through multiple trepanations.

Feilding sits on a couch in front of the fireplace. An assistant comes in and asks if she wants hummus, and indeed she does, so the assistant returns with hummus. Feilding’s cook periodically pops in with updates on the imminence of dinner.

In the early days of Beckley, Feilding’s husband, the historian and earl Jamie Wemyss, who belongs to a wealthy Scottish family, helped pay the Beckley Foundation's bills until Feilding got better at fund-raising. But all the while Feilding has worried about money for the foundation. Governments aren’t exactly lining up to fund research into psychedelics. Neither are pharmaceutical companies. So she relies on private donors, but that’s never enough for the scope of what Feilding wants to do—studies, studies, more studies, to convince the scientific community and the public that there’s promise in psychedelics. “I can put up 10, 20, 30 thousand, but I can't put up hundreds of thousands,” she says.

Feilding has 50 years of experience using psychedelics. But she also thinks like a classically trained scientist.

Ren Rox for WIRED

Feilding occupies a strange niche as both a fund-raiser with specific policy goals and doer of science. She’s a co-author on all these papers that study psychedelics like psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) and LSD, but she sticks out. She's not a trained scientist. She doesn't have an undergraduate degree, much less a PhD. It’s not that she doesn’t belong, but she’s just not like everyone else.

And yet: People have this conception of science as being 100 percent objective and sober. It’s not. Any scientist, whether studying psychedelics or global warming, comes to the table with opinions and preconceived notions. Does Feilding have a more pronounced political agenda than most? She sure does—that’s what sets her apart from other researchers in the field, who’d rather focus all their attention on mechanisms of action and the like.

Feilding has 50 years of experience using psychedelics. But she also thinks like any of the classically trained scientists she authors papers with. “The real focus is not who is doing the study,” says Doblin of MAPS, “but how the study is being designed, and how sincere are the efforts to follow the gold standard scientific methodology.”

And Feilding’s studies are great, he adds. “They're the epitome of neuroscience research these days.”

Feilding comes from a long line of people who didn’t give a damn about societal norms. She sits next to the fireplace in a home her father tended at night, driving a tractor around in the darkness. Her ancestors plotted against the government. And now Feilding plots to upend not only the way humanity views psychedelics but how humanity treats mental disorders.

“We’re depriving millions of people of a better life by not making use cleverly of what has been known throughout history,” she says. “These are tools to heal, to treat, to get to another level.”

Maybe, though, the powers that be are willing to at least reconsider psychedelics. Maybe the hippies were on to something, and acid can change the world, but they just went about it all wrong. And maybe the breakthrough will one day come from a 16th-century mansion in the Oxford countryside, where the Countess of Wemyss and March toils.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/inside-the-mind-of-amanda-feilding-countess-of-psychedelic-science/

NRA head breaks silence to attack gun control advocates: ‘They hate individual freedom’

Wayne LaPierre spoke at CPAC in the wake of the Florida school shooting, mounting an unrepentant defense of gun rights

The head of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) has broken his silence more than a week after the Florida school shooting with a vituperative attack on gun control advocates, accusing them of exploiting the tragedy to push their agenda.

Wayne LaPierre, whose lobby group faces an unprecedented challenge from the activism of students, including survivors of the massacre, sought to paint his opponents as elites and socialists hellbent on undermining Americans constitutional rights.

The elites dont care not one whit about Americas school system and schoolchildren, he told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the National Harbor in Maryland. If they truly cared, what they would do is they would protect them. For them, its not a safety issue, its a political issue.

They care more about control, and more of it. Their goal is to eliminate the second amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms… They hate the NRA, they hate the second amendment, they hate individual freedom.

Addressing a sympathetic audience of conservative grassroots activists, LaPierre continued: They fantasise about more laws stopping what other laws have failed to stop. So many existing laws were ignored. They dont care if their laws work or not. They just want to get more laws to get more control over people. But the NRA the NRA does care.

The massacre of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, last week was the second deadliest shooting at an American public school and has spurred extraordinary protests across the country. The debate reached a watershed on Wednesday when students and teachers confronted US Senators in a noisy town hall event televised live by CNN; there were raucous cheers for the idea of sweeping bans on assault weapons.

LaPierres name was initially kept off the agenda at the annual CPAC to protect him from media scrutiny. The NRA often prefers to stay out of the spotlight in the wake of a major shooting.

LaPierre sought to put the warnings in the wider context of a socialist enemy within, who he said oppose our fundamental freedoms enshrined in the bill of rights. He claimed that the Communist Manifesto and Karl Marx were ascendent on university campuses, describing socialism as a political disease.

The NRA chief warned the packed ballroom: You should be anxious and you should be frightened. If these so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate and, God forbid, they win the White House again our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever, and the first to go will be the second amendment to the US constitution the right to bear arms.

Pushing the same agenda on school security as Donald Trump, he insisted: The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous. If thats true, armed security makes us less safe, lets just go ahead and remove it from everywhere.

He continued: We must immediately harden our schools. Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder. It should not be easier for a madman to shoot up a school than a bank or jewellery store or some Hollywood gala.

Schools should be the hardest target in this country. Evil must be confronted with all necessary force to protect our kids.

He ended his speech, which was met with a standing ovation, by repeating the notorious mantra he had issued after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012: To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.

In an earlier speech, the NRAs national spokeswoman singled out the media for criticism. Dana Loesch said: Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. Now Im not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you.

Under intense public pressure, there has been speculation that Trump might use his credibility with Republicans to take on the NRA, one of his strongest backers. But on Thursday he tweeted full support: What many people dont understand, or dont want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris [Cox] and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

The president reaffirmed his proposal to address school shootings by giving some teachers guns, tweeting that it would be a great deterrent to killers. He suggested a little bit of a bonus for trained teachers who are armed.

Trump, who held a listening session with students and parents on Wednesday, also said he would advocate for tightening background checks for gun buyers, with an emphasis on mental health, and lifting the age limit to 21 to buy some types of guns policies less likely to please the powerful pro-gun lobby group.

Many attendees at CPAC expressed support for the idea of arming teachers.

Debi Millman, a fundraiser based in Los Angeles, suggested it was more realistic than restricting a country already awash with guns. How many millions of them are there? Youre never going to be able to keep evil out. A better solution for me is have the schools be able to defend themselves. If criminals know that if they attack a school theyll get their heads blown off, thats a good idea.

Randi Green, a personal trainer from Los Angeles, interjected: Except for the fact most teachers are liberals and would baulk at the idea.

Green was sceptical about the students at Parkland who had been speaking out. Theyre definitely being manipulated, she said. Everybody has a voice but these are young kids and I dont think they know better than lawmakers. I thought they were very disrespectful in the way they speak to people. I think the parents are rooting them on.

Scott Pio, 33, wearing a red Make America great again cap, also backed the proposal for teachers to carry and conceal firearms. We can arm everybody else around important people, why cant we arm everybody around our students, especially as they are soft targets? What are people so afraid of? Even city council managers are already protected by guns.

Pio, a software engineer from Fairfax, Virginia, also suggested making schools more secure, with only one point of entry, and increasing the number of security guards on site. But he was opposed to a ban on semi-automatic weapons. There are plenty of people in rural areas who use guns to protect their homes and go hunting. But Im OK with raising the age to 21 for assault rifles.

Chris Davis, 44, a police officer from Pennsylvania, said he was impressed by the students who have spoken out but criticised liberal campaigners demanding tighter gun controls. These same people say President Trump is a tyrant. The reason you have the second amendment is to protect yourself from a tyrant.

Todd McKinley, 40, a retired soldier from Kingsport, Tennessee, added: The left called him Hitler, but then they want to grab all guns just like Hitler did.

bottom

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/22/nra-wayne-lapierre-gun-control-cpac-speech-2018

Hard To Watch: This Girl Who Wont Go In The Pool Because She Just Got Her First Period Is Way Overselling Her Lie About How Her Religion Doesnt Allow Swimming

If you were looking for a heartwarming story, you might want to stop reading now, because the scene currently unfolding at a neighborhood pool party is sure to make you cringe: Thirteen-year-old Katie Moore isn’t going in the pool because she just got her first period, and now she’s way overselling her lie about how her religion doesn’t allow swimming.

Jeez. This is definitely hard to watch. Everyone got the hint when she said her religious beliefs forbid swimming, and she really could’ve just left it at that.

From the moment her friends jumped into the pool, Katie’s been leaning way too hard on her lie about how her family belongs to a little-known sect of Christianity in which swimming is forbidden, both recreationally and for survival. Although everyone at the party was immediately cool to just let her chill out by the side of the pool without any fuss, she proceeded to tell everybody her family’s faith stipulates that her soul will be damned to Hell for an eternity of unbearable torment should she swim.

“My family’s priest will excommunicate me from the church if I even get my feet wet,” Katie said as she ignored her friends’ offer to just get out of the pool and go on the trampoline with her instead. “A few years ago, my uncle went swimming in the hotel pool at our Christmas celebration, and now we’re not even allowed to say his name.”

Sadly, even though all of Katie’s friends are nodding and saying it’s fine if she doesn’t swim with them, she’s continuing to pad out this unnecessary lie with excessive detail, including a made-up biblical story she says her family holds sacred about twin sisters named Victoria and Zemirah who swam in a river instead of preparing supper and, as punishment, were beheaded by their father, who was anointed with scented oils by the king as a reward for slaying the blasphemous swimmers.

Damn, Katie’s really going to some incredible lengths to avoid telling people she just got her period. Someone should probably tell her she can take it easy. Party guests say that when her friend’s mom came outside with a box of popsicles, Katie didn’t even give her a chance to ask why she wasn’t in the pool before launching into a convoluted explanation about how the only day her religion will permit her to swim is on the eve of her wedding, and that when she does finally get in the water, it will be a really beautiful ceremony at a lake, which is something she says she knows because she saw her cousin swim before he got married last summer.

Yikes. You’ve gotta feel for this girl. Her elaborate lie about her anti-swimming religion is becoming more labyrinthine by the moment. It’s definitely not easy to have your first period at a pool party, but this is total overkill. Hopefully Katie finds a way to wrap this up at some point before she digs herself into too big of a hole.

Read more: http://www.clickhole.com/article/hard-watch-girl-who-wont-go-pool-because-she-just–7425

Senate recesses until Friday at 12:01 a.m., assuring shutdown

The U.S. Senate has recessed until Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET without approving a budget deal, which means a short government shutdown is assured. A last-minute maneuver by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., delayed consideration of a bipartisan budget package to keep the government open past midnight.

Paul repeatedly objected to a quick vote on the deal struck by his fellow Kentucky Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Paul said he was asking for a recorded vote on reversing the bill’s spending increases. That effort could delay a final Senate vote until 1 a.m. Friday, past the deadline for keeping the government open.

“I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits,” the Kentucky senator said. “Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits. I can’t in all honesty look the other way.”

At one point, an exasperated Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., took to the Senate floor to lambaste Paul for what Tillis described as “theater.”

“We can right now provide certainty to people who expect government to be open or we can play this game until 1 a.m.,” said Tillis, who reminded Paul that “you have to convince 51 or 60 senators that your idea is good enough to support.”

“You can make a point all you want, but points are forgotten,” Tillis added. “There aren’t a whole of history books about great points in the U.S. Senate.”

Shortly after 10 p.m., Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, made six separate unanimous consent requests to hold a vote on the budget. Each time, Paul objected. 

“I don’t know why we’re burning time here,” Cornyn said before accusing Paul of “effectively shutting down the government … for no real reason.”

“It makes no sense to me,” Cornyn added. “It will not accomplish anything.”

As Paul stood firm, the Trump administration announced it was preparing for a “lapse” in appropriations, suggesting that officials expected a short shutdown.

The massive budget deal, which includes a stopgap temporary measure to prevent a government shutdown, includes $300 billion for the military. The agreement also adds $89 billion in overdue disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, a politically charged increase in the government’s borrowing cap and a grab bag of health and tax provisions.

The legislation is expected to pass the Senate, but still faces uncertainty in the House, where liberals, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are protesting a lack of protections for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children and the conservative House Freedom Caucus is lining up against provisions ending spending caps.

Late Thursday, House GOP leaders advised members to prepare for votes “very roughly between” 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Friday.

President Trump has been urging Republicans and Democrats to support the Senate bill, tweeting that lawmakers must “must support our troops and support this bill.”

But the bill still faces opposition from members of both parties.

Pelosi — who on Wednesday spoke for eight straight hours on the chamber’s floor in opposition to the measure — said Thursday that she would oppose the bill.

Democrats like Pelosi are pushing for the bill to include provisions for “Dreamers” — immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents. Such protections are about to expire in early March, a result of President Trump ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he also won’t support the bill and predicted other Democrats would also vote no.

“So today, they are going to bring over from the Senate a proposal, they are going to lift the caps and they’re going to say, let’s vote on our budget. Well, I say to everybody — don’t collude with this administration,” Gutierrez said. “Vote against the budget.”

The House Freedom Caucus, the chamber’s fiscally conservative wing, also opposes the bill out of concerns that it would lead to more government spending.

“The … caucus opposes the deal to raise spending caps on discretionary spending by nearly $300 billion over two years,” the roughly 30-member group said Wednesday. “We support funding for our military, but growing the size of government by 13 percent adds to the swamp instead of draining it. This is not what the American people sent us here to do.”

On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan gave his full support to the bill to try to rally others in chamber to also vote yes — saying the military is at risk without the money, while acknowledging the deal includes partisan compromises and isn’t perfect.

“This is a bipartisan bill,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “On the net, this is a very good solution.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/02/09/senate-recesses-until-friday-at-12-01-m-assuring-shutdown.html

5 Awesome Sci-Fi Movie Technologies That’d Suck In Real Life

Why are we still driving non-flying cars to our non-space workplaces while fantasizing about our merely two-boobed prostitutes? Where are all the snazzy gadgets and awesome technologies movies promised us? In many cases, they’re right here. We just don’t use them because, well, they kinda suck. Like how …

5

Controlling Computers With Hand Gestures Is Awful

In Minority Report, Tom Cruise plays a future cop who tries to warn everyone that Max von Sydow is evil, but no one will believe him, even though he’s clearly Max von Sydow. But what most people remember best are the scenes wherein Cruise controls his futuristic crime lab computer by waving his arms around.

How cool is that? Instead of having to say “enhance” and then clicking a boring old mouse, Cruise picks up files and videos from the air itself, and explores them using simple gestures. Soon, other movies were jumping in on this hot futuristic action. From Iron Man 2

Marvel Studios

… to Prometheus

20th Century FoxSpoilers: This movie will show up a lot in this article.

… to Star Trek: Discovery.

CBS Television StudiosThank you in advance for the 100 comments about how this one’s not a movie.

Why We’re Not Using This Today:

As everyone who has ever owned a Kinect knows, this crap gets old fast. The biggest issue is that your arms get tired very quickly if you hold them up for even a short period of time. If you make that a long time, the feeling gets absolutely excruciating. Engineers actually identified this problem in the ’80s, and even gave it a name: the “gorilla arm” effect. You know, because your arms get “sore, cramped, and oversized,” and you end up looking and feeling like a gorilla. Not even a cool sci-fi cyborg gorilla like in Congo.

Take another look at that Minority Report scene. When Cruise goes to shake Colin Farrell’s hand, he accidentally moves a bunch of files he’s working on. That would happen all the time. Imagine you’re holding 350 slides that took you five hours to organize and you suddenly get an itch on your butt:

20th Century FoxOr any other activity where you might be shaking your hand while staring at your screen …

Any interface that lies flat and gives you a wide range of control — even if you only move your hands a few inches — would beat this thing … hands down. If only we had something like that!

4

Sci-Fi Holograms Are Inferior To 2D Images In Almost Every Way

If somebody in a sci-fi movie needs to look at something important, a paltry two dimensions simply will not do. They need holograms for absolutely everything, even when audio alone would do the job. Like in Star Wars, when R2-D2 shows Leia’s holographic recording to a horned up Luke:

LucasfilmWhile Obi-Wan silently screams on the inside.

Here it is again in The Last Starfighter:

Universal Pictures

And here’s a dude’s head popping out of a monitor on Star Trek: Discovery:

CBS Television Studios

Hell, even the highly advanced race of spacefaring giants who created mankind love holograms! From Prometheus:

20th Century FoxYou need to adjust the tracking on your Space Voldemort.

Why We’re Not Using This Today:

You may have noticed something about the holograms above: They A) look like crap, B) are completely pointless, or C) both. That pretty much sums up holograms in the real world, too. Remember that time Tupac’s blue ghost crashed a Snoop Dogg performance? And remember how the company responsible went bankrupt soon thereafter? Turns out there isn’t much real use for blurry, semi-transparent 3D projections that cause eye strain if you look at them for too long.

Even the nicest example is so fuzzy and transparent that it’s not clear why you would bother with it over a 2D video feed. In the 2017 Ghost In The Shell, a hologram is used to reconstruct a murder scene, but it’s so imprecise (red tint, kinda blurry, semi-transparent) that it’s hard to think of a use for it other than making up for the investigator’s chronic lack of imagination.

Paramount Pictures“Ohhh, that’s what tables look like. OK, I’m good.”

In Prometheus (again!), the Weyland Corporation’s holograms don’t have a tint, but they’re so transparent that everyone on the crew probably ended up with a migraine anyway.

20th Century Fox“Oh, I thought it was the script causing that.”

If you absolutely need to communicate visual information over a vast distance, why would you choose this technology? Think of the bandwidth charges! We already know the future doesn’t have Net Neutrality.

3

Nobody Likes Video Calls (Except In The Movies)

With the possible exception of flying cars and sex-bots, no technology shows up in sci-fi movies as often as video calls. Whether they’re discussing something of galaxy-shattering importance or reminding their spouse to buy eggs, everybody in the future does everything via video calls. We see it in …

Marvel StudioGuardians Of The Galaxy

Warner Bros. PicturesDemolition Man

TriStar PicturesTotal Recall (the good one)

Columbia PicturesTotal Recall (the Colin Farrell one)

Paramount PicturesStar Trek Into Darkness

… and like a million other movies. We’ll stop now, or we’ll be here all day.

Why We’re Not Using This Today:

We are! Video calling is finally a reality! And it sucks. Seriously, unless it’s for Twitch streaming, nobody uses it. And it’s easy to see why.

You can take voice calls in almost any situation where you can talk, but if you take a video call, you have to look like a decently dressed, reasonably groomed human being. Plus, you have to make sure you didn’t leave something like, say, a giant pink dildo visible in the background. Which has happened. On the BBC.

And yet sci-fi characters love this technology so much that they’ll literally risk their lives to use it. In 2017’s Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, right as the characters are leaving a planet’s orbit, the face of their boss pops up smack dab in the middle of their ship’s front viewport. That could kill you while you’re driving a car, let alone piloting a spaceship.

EuropaCorp“Just called to remind you that driving and Skyping is illegal. Also, you’re fired.”

2

Super Advanced Robots Always Have Needlessly Terrible Vision

One of the coolest types of shots is when we go inside a robot’s head to see the way they look at the world. Like in the Terminator movies, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger sees everything through a badass red filter, with a bunch of important-looking numbers and text readouts:

TriStar PicturesWhy isn’t the text in Austrian, though?

Or the recent RoboCop remake, where the Robo-Vision (that’s the official name, look it up) shows everything in an old-timey reddish sepia tone, with, again, added text and data prompts:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer“08 threats and 15 cliches detected.”

Why We’re Not Using This Today:

Look at any decent first-person shooting game. The status bars and prompts are always minimal and in the corners of the screen. If they took up 30 percent of your monitor, like in the examples above, the developers would have angry nerds with actual guns outside their houses. All those big letters and numbers are covering up important visual information, allowing AmishTeabaggz42069 to sneak up and shoot you in the head. And what are they even there for? Terminators have computers for brains. Why do they need to see the data they themselves are processing?

On top of that, the obligatory red tint makes these killer robots effectively colorblind, and prevents them from easily distinguishing between, say, blood and other liquids, which you’d think would be important in their line of work. At the other end of the spectrum, we have medical robots like Baymax from Big Hero 6, whose internal HUD looks like this:

Walt Disney Pictures“Slack-jawed and dumb-looking … perfectly healthy for a teen boy.”

All those widgets are probably helpful for a robot that patches up humans, but that blue tint … isn’t. Baymax needs to see his patients as accurately as possible, not just to identify any physical symptoms, but also to make treatment easier. It’s been demonstrated that blue light hinders injections, since it’s harder to find a vein under the patient’s skin.

Meanwhile, in Chappie, the law-enforcing robots that patrol the streets are all apparently equipped with crappy late ’90s webcams. Imagine trying to shoot the correct criminal if this was what you saw:

Columbia PicturesCan robots get motion sickness?

To be fair, all these examples are still an improvement over 1973’s Westworld, wherein the highly advanced Yul Brynner robot, whose sole purpose is to shoot people in gunfights, can’t even tell a fork from a spoon.

Metro-Goldwyn-MayerSporks make their heads explode.

1

Computer Screens In Science Fiction Movies Are Worse Than The Ones We Have Today

In sci-fi movies, computer screens are elaborate displays of carefully matched colors and captivating animations (even when no one’s using them). They’re all packed with graphs and numbers and all sorts of doubtlessly essential information. Marvel at the snazzy monitors in 2009’s Star Trek

Paramount Pictures

… and Avatar

20th Century Fox

… and naturally, good ol’ Prometheus:

20th Century Fox

Why We’re Not Using This Today:

We lose ten minutes of work time every time a pigeon lands outside our window. If you had to do your job next to a bunch of huge screens that kept looping through colorful graphics, you’d probably get quite distracted. And if your own screen insisted on performing a lovely animation every time you updated some data or asked for an analysis, you’d probably start daydreaming about Microsoft Excel for the first time in your life.

In almost every sense, these sci-fi screens are a huge step backwards compared to what we have now. Nearly all of them have low contrast (making it harder to read things at a glance) and a grand total of four colors, all of which are usually variations of blue and green. The Avengers:

Marvel StudiosThis would look better if they were all playing Galaga.

Mars (a National Geographic miniseries):

National Geographic

Prometheus:

20th Century PicturesLast time, we promise!

Not only does this mean that you run out of ways to highlight important stuff quickly, but the preponderance of blue and lack of red tones can even be dangerous. See, when your eyes have adapted to a dark environment, light of any color except red will disrupt that adaptation. This is called the Purkinje effect. That’s why interfaces for things like submarines and airplanes use a lot of red, which allows, for example, pilots flying at night to clearly see both the screen and the view outside their cockpit. But on the other hand, blue looks neater, so that’s a fair tradeoff.

These sci-fi screens fail at the most basic function of a user interface: conveying information quickly and easily. Everything important is hidden in dense blocks of tiny text and numbers scattered around the screen. The only way the following screenshots make sense is if the characters have superhuman vision or magnifying glasses:

Marvel StudiosThe Avengers

Paramount PicturesStar Trek Beyond

20th Century PicturesAvatar

For comparison, here is a real-life NASA mission control room:

NASA

Note the lack of flashy animated visualizations. The multiple high-contrast colors. The text that is readable when you’re at the intended distance. And Earth has yet to be attacked by alien invaders. Coincidence? We don’t think so.

Prometheus isn’t a bad movie, but please make sure you’ve seen Alien before watching Prometheus. We talk about that movie a lot on this site too.

If you loved this article and want more content like this, support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_25385_5-awesome-sci-fi-movie-technologies-thatd-suck-in-real-life.html

Critically ill man is former Russian spy

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media caption“He was doing strange hand movements, looking up to the sky”: What we know so far

A man who is critically ill after being exposed to an unknown substance in Wiltshire is a Russian national convicted of spying for Britain, the BBC understands.

Sergei Skripal, 66, was granted refuge in the UK following a “spy swap” between the US and Russia in 2010.

He and a woman, 33, were found unconscious on a bench at a shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday.

Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury has been closed by police “as a precaution”.

The substance has not been identified, but Public Health England said there was no known risk to the public’s health.

Wiltshire Police are investigating whether a crime has been committed. They said the pair had no visible injuries but had been found unconscious at the Maltings shopping centre.

They have declared a “major incident” and multiple agencies are investigating. They said it had not been declared as a counter-terrorism incident, but they were keeping an “open mind”.

Col Skripal, who is a retired Russian military intelligence officer, was jailed for 13 years by Russia in 2006 for spying for Britain.

He was convicted of passing the identities of Russian intelligence agents working undercover in Europe to the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

Russia said Col Skripal had been paid $100,000 for the information, which he had been supplying from the 1990s.

He was one of four prisoners released by Moscow in exchange for 10 US spies in 2010, as part of a swap. Col Skripal was later flown to the UK.

He and the woman, who police said were known to each other, are both in intensive care at Salisbury District Hospital.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWitness: “They looked like they’d been taking something quite strong”

A number of locations in the city centre were cordoned off and teams in full protective gear used hoses to decontaminate the street.

The hospital advised people to attend routine operations and outpatient appointments unless they were contacted. It said its A&E department was open but busy because of the weather.

On the restaurant closure, police said Public Health England had reiterated the advice that there was no known risk to the wider public, but as a precaution advised that if people felt ill they should contact the NHS on 111.

“If you feel your own or another’s health is significantly deteriorating, ring 999,” police said.

Neighbours at Sergei Skripal’s home in Salisbury say police arrived around 17:00 GMT on Sunday and have been there ever since.

They said he was friendly and in recent years had lost his wife.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionTemp Asst Chief Constable Craig Holden: “We are unable to ascertain whether or not a crime has taken place”

Eyewitness Freya Church told the BBC it looked like the two people had taken “something quite strong”.

She said: “On the bench there was a couple, an older guy and a younger girl. She was sort of leant in on him, it looked like she had passed out maybe.

“He was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky…

“They looked so out of it I thought even if I did step in I wasn’t sure how I could help.”

Image caption Public Health England has not confirmed what the substance was
Image caption The hospital’s A&E was closed on Monday while two people were treated

The possibility of an unexplained substance being involved has drawn comparisons with the 2006 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.

The Russian dissident died in London in 2006 after drinking tea laced with a radioactive substance.

A public inquiry concluded that his killing had probably been carried out with the approval of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in the UK, when asked for comment on the incident, said: “Neither relatives nor legal representatives of the said person, nor the British authorities, have addressed the embassy in this regard.”

Analysis

By BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera

The parallels are striking with the 2006 case of Alexander Litvinenko.

He, too, was a former Russian intelligence officer who had come to the UK and was taken ill for reasons that were initially unclear.

In that case, it took weeks to establish that the cause was deliberate poisoning, and it took close to a decade before a public inquiry pointed the finger of blame at the Russian state.

Officials are stressing that it is too early this time to speculate on what happened here or why.

The police are not even yet saying a crime has been committed, but if the similarities do firm up and Moscow is once again found to be in the frame there will be questions about what kind of response might be required – and whether enough was done in the past to deter such activity being repeated.

Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the police approach to the Salisbury incident suggested there could be a “very sinister background”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight, he said: “It could indeed potentially have been the FSB (Russian intelligence services) or the Kremlin could have been behind it.

“It could have been some form of criminal response for other reasons, or it could be some form of personal grievance some individual had against these two people or either of them.

“We don’t know at this stage and it is not going to be useful to speculate beyond that,” he added.

What were the charges against Col Skripal?

Col Skripal was convicted of “high treason in the form of espionage” by Moscow’s military court in August 2006. He was stripped off all his titles and awards.

He was alleged by the Russian security service FSB to have begun working for the British secret services while serving in the army in the 1990s.

He had been passing information classified as state secrets and been paid for the work by MI6, the FSB claimed.

Col Skripal pleaded guilty at his trial and co-operated with investigators, reports said at the time.

Were you in the area at the time? Have you been affected by the incident? You can share your experience by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

You can receive Breaking News on a smartphone or tablet via the BBC News App. You can also follow @BBCBreaking on Twitter to get the latest alerts.

Or use the form below

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43295134

Teachers start powerful #ArmMeWith movement to speak out against guns in classrooms

In the wake of yet another tragic school shooting, teachers have started an eye-opening movement on social media to let the world know what preventative measures really need to be taken seriously to protect students.

In response to the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Trump suggested that some teachers receive gun training so they can be armed in their classrooms. But rather than adding more guns to educational environments, teachers are using the hashtag #ArmMeWith to share far more peaceful resources they wish to be armed with, such as school supplies, mental health resources and funding, impactful changes in curriculum, and stronger gun control legislation.

The movement was started by two educators: Brittany Wheaton, a teacher in Utah, andOlivia Bertels from Kansas. Both 27-year-olds met through Instagram, according to Buzzfeed, and eagerly asked the online teacher community to share their personal thoughts on how to ensure the safety and proper education of students.

Teachers across the U.S. have been using the hashtag.

One high school English teacher requested a “curriculum that tells the truth, the ability to teach the truth, a society that believes the truth, and political leaders who make laws based on the truth.”

Others asked to be armed with more on-site mental health professionals, like school counselors and social workers, as well as self-care classes, bullet-proof glass, an enhanced library, and a range of other resources that focus on the physical, mental, and emotional care of students and faculty members.

#Armmewith is a movement by @thesuperheroteacher and @missbertels_ and I invite you to join in! Skip through my pics and post your own (I’ve included a blank template) or go to goo.go/52XggF to print your own out! . . . The Arm Me With movement is to make our leaders aware of what teachers really need in the classroom. As some of you know, I’m a gun owner and I can shoot a gun, but I do not believe guns belong anywhere near a classroom. Teachers have enough burdens and the classroom is an unpredictable place. Also teachers are outnumbered by kids 30:1 oftentimes. Guns are not the solution here, and I think they’d be catastrophic. Please flip through my ideal solutions and feel free to use the blank picture to create your own solution! . . . . . . #armwithme #schoolsafetynow #educatorsagainstgunviolence #teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers

A post shared by The Whimsical Teacher (@the_whimsical_teacher) on

“Since teachers are the individuals in the classroom when it happens, I like to think we know what’s best for our students,” Wheatontold Buzzfeed. “If you’re an educator, you know that [more guns] is not a solution to stopping the violence that’s happening in our schools.”

For those looking to participate in the movement, Wheaton has shared a blank #ArmMeWith template that can be downloaded and filled out. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/02/23/armmewith-twitter-teachers-guns/