Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gorgonopsia

One of my favourite suborders that has ever existed is the Gorgonopsids, a therapsid synapsid in the middle to late Permian, though, they were sadly extinct in the Permian mass extinction, the only theradont line to meet this end. There were many types of Gorgonopsid, the largest, inostrancevia, the size of a rhino, and due to the extinction of dinocephalias, because the top Permian predator.

Gorgonopsia, meaning 'gorgon face', were mammal-like, with heterodont teeth, ear bones and temporal fenetraes (skulls characterised by bilateral, symmetrical holes, or fenestraes, in the temporal bone.), though it's unknown whether they had scales, fur, or just naked skin. They're one of three groups of theradonts, and are a close relation to mammals, through cynadonts, another group of theradont. 

There are 19 families of Gorgonopsia, and three subfamilies. The three subfamilies of Gorgonopsia are Gorgonopsinae, Inostranceviinae and Rubidgeinae, and contain three, two and four species respectively. 

Gorgonops is the most common genus of Gorgonopsinae, that grew to 2-2.5 meters long, and had 12-cm sabre teeth, similar to smilodon. Gorgonops were faster than the majority of Gorgonopsinae because of their long legs under their body. There are three definitely known species of Gorgonops:

  • Torvus, the type species. A medium-sized Gorgonops characterised by a longer snout and some difference in skull structure. 
  • Whaitsi, a larger Gorgonops, with a wider skull rear and details of proportion. 
  • Longifrons, a large Gorgonopsid with an larger skull-orbit and snout than Whaitsi.
There are three other species, though they're either uncertainly placed, or synonyms. These are dixeyi, kaiseri, and eupachygnathus. 

Artist interpretation of Whaitsi 

Torvus, by Theropsida

Longifrons, also by Theropsida


Gorgonops have been in popular culture a couple of times. In 2005, a Gorgonopsid was featured in Walking With Monsters, but was specified as a Gorgonops in the companion book, though as it was shown preying on a scutosaurus, it was likely a different genus of Gorgonopsid, as Gorgonops and scutosaurus lived in separate countries. It was also shown in the 2007-present ITV-sci-fi, Primeval twice.  

Another Gorgonopsinae is Sauroctonus, a 3 meter long gorgonopsid with a triangular skull, and a primitive parietal eye. They had a pair of huge canines on the upper and lower jaws, larger on the upper jaw. Their other teeth were smaller and pointed, and tiny blunt teeth were found on the palatine bone. The lower jaw was widened to form a chin, and their long, lightly-built limbs resembled mammalian limbs. Despite having mammalian characteristics, they're not ancestors of mammals. There are two species of Sauroctonus, Parringtoni and progressus. 

Artist impression of Sauroctonus

Another genus of Gorgonopsia is Scylacops, a moderately-sized relative of Progressus Sauroctonus, composed of two species, bigendens and capensis. 


Scylacops bigendens, by theropsida

In the subfamily Inostranceviinae, the first genus is Inostrancevia. Inostrancevia had an upright posture of 1-4.3 meters long and strong muscular attachments. They had larger temporal fenestras and smaller eye sockets than less advanced therapsids. The upper jaw contained 10 small back teeth, 6 large incisors, and 2 larger canines. Their lower jaw was composed of 6 large incisors, and 8 small incisors. 

An artist impression of an Inostrancevia and a scutosaurus

There are four species of Inostrancevia, Amalitsky, l. Pravoslavlev,Tatarinov, and v. Pravolsavlev.

Pravoslavlevia is another genus of Inostranceviinae. Only one species of Pravoslavlevia is known, Parva. Their total length was around 1.4 meters, making them a particularly small Gorgonopsid. 

Artist impression of Pravoslavlevia Parva

The last subfamily of Gorgonopsidae is Rubidgeinae, and the first genus is Broomicephalus. They were small gorgonopsids with long, broad snouts, only about 1.1 meters in total. 

Artist impression of Broomicephalus.

Niuksenitia is another genus of Rubidgeinae, but I can't find any information on it. 
Prorubidgea is also a genus of Rebidgeinae, containing 6 species, Alticeps, Brinki, Brodiei, Maccabei, Pugnax and Robusta, but I couldn't find any more information on it. 

The last genus is Rubidgea, a 2.4 meter gorgonopsid with very large canines, which contains one known species, Atrox. 

Artist impression of Rubidgea Atrox.

There are another 19 families of Gorgonopsids, but I'm very tired, and have an exam in the morning. I may return to them, but for now, I do need to sleep. 



From my blog, The Last Lemurisian
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Friday, May 27, 2011

Hiatus

Unfortunantly due to unavoidable circumstances, I am going to have to put my blog on hiatus for a while. I am unsure how long this will take, but this is by no means and end for this blog. I have enjoyed subjecting the masses to my writing here to just give it up. I'll just have to set it down for a bit while I get some things in order.

In the mean time, I will be letting the ever wonderful Misa Akane take over for a bit. She will be taking over any administrative duties as well as possibly putting up some of her own posts here in my absence.

I hope to be back as soon as I can, until then.

Cyc
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rape is like getting a flat tire?

Kansas Representative Pete DeGraaf (Republican) is behind a new bill that has passed the state house and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback. This bill will ban insurance companies from covering abortions in any case other than when the women’s life is in danger. While separate ‘abortion policies’ will be allowed under the bill, it affectively makes abortions out of reach for a large percentage of the populace who would need them. This bill does not make expectation for cases or rape.

A fellow Republican Representative, Barbara Bollier who supports abortion rights questioned the rationality behind such a bill. She wondered whether women really should be expected to purchase abortion only policies to cover for what is always an unforeseen possibility. Be it for an unwanted pregnancy in general or for the case of rape victims. In a completely unexpected rebuttal, Representative DeGraaf responded with:

We do need to plan ahead, don't we, in life?"

Bollier asked him, "And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?"

DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, "I have spare tire on my car."

"I also have life insurance," he added. "I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for."

I really do not know what to say to this. How can anyone consider being violated in one of the most horrific ways as the same as the annoyance of getting a flat tire? If nothing else proves the inhumanity of such people, this certainly must.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All hail Cthulu!

While I could not stand the original version of this song, I think I could get used to the improved version.



Edit:

Thanks to the wonderful Misa Akane for finding this for me, sorry for forgetting this.
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Monday, May 23, 2011

How the firefly glows

Biolumination, the creation of light by living things, is an evolutionary strategy that has formed multiple times for different reasons. But in the case of the fireflies, or lightning bugs if you prefer (despite them not being members of the true bugs, but that was last post), the cause for all the ephemeral lights generally comes down to one thing, sex.

Members of the family Lampyridea, or as they are more commonly known, fireflies, are a group of beetles that have developed the ability to use light for communication. Being beetles, a good portion of their lives are spent underground as larvae feeding off of soft bodied invertebrates such as slugs, snails and earthworms. Even at the larval stage, the glowing abdomen can be found in some species if flipped on their back. In this instance, the firefly is taking use of a secondary purpose behind glowing known as an aposematic signal. This is a warning to all those who find it that, due to chemicals unrelated to illumination, the creature possesses a terrible taste. In this case, the use of light is quite similar to the bright colors of certain poisonous frogs.

The production of light, in both the larvae and the adults, occurs in the abdomen. Here, on the underside of the posterior abdominal segments, within specialized cells known as photocyes, a chemical reaction occurs that produces the light. In the case of fireflies (as there are many ways to produce light), they begin with a florescent substrate known as Luciferin. While Luciferin can produce some light when oxidized, fireflies use an enzyme known as Luciferase to speed up the reaction. While Luciferin on its own only produces one wavelength of light, changes to the shape of the Luciferase enzyme in different species allows for the production of the wavelengths of yellow, green and even red light.

The reactions use of oxygen is key to the fireflies control over its light. While the nervous system does not directly contact the photocytes, it does connect to nearby cells. When the firefly wants to light up, it sends a signal to these neighboring cells to start producing nitrous oxide which is then absorbed by the adjacent photocytes. The photocytes have arranged their mitochondria (the source of energy for a cell) along the outside so that oxygen is used up by them before it can react with the Luciferin produced within the cell. But once nitrous oxide starts to be absorbed, the mitochondria start to metabolize using this gas instead, allowing for oxygen to diffuse deeper into the cell where it can finally be used in the reaction to produce light. As long as the supportive cells produce nitrous oxide, enough oxygen will diffuse throughout the cells for the firefly to glow. But once the production of nitrous oxide stops, the mitochondria go back to using oxygen which interrupts the oxygen flow, preventing the light producing reaction. In this round about manner, the firefly can appear to flick on and off.

All of these complex pathways have evolved for the sake of sex. For when it comes to reproduction, evolution will take any and all possible paths it can so that the individual’s genes may be passed on. The flashing is used as a sign of fitness, the longer and brighter the flash, the better suited the mate. Many females, who often do not develop wings and may even stay in a permanent larval form, use their own light to signal to the males whether they are interested or not.

The color, frequency and duration of the flashes are unique to each species. This prevents an individual from trying to attract a mate only to find out that it is the wrong species. However, one genus has taken advantage of this distinction. Females of the genus Photuris will mimic the flashes of the females of members of a different genus, Photinus, to lure in incompatible males. Once lured in, the female Photuris will eat the unsuspecting male so that it might gain the toxins it produces. It seems Photuris has found a more efficient way of becoming inedible than just producing the chemicals herself.

Thank you JuneBug for the request!
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Superfamily Pentatomoidea – The stink bugs

The insects known more commonly as the stink bugs, shield bugs or chest bugs are all members of the large superfamily Pentomoidea. There are approximently 7000 known species divided up amongst 14 to 15 families (depending on the system preferred by the consulted taxonomist). All are distinguishable by a similar body plan, the structure of their mouth parts and their varying use of chemical defenses.

Members of the true bugs (order Hemiptera), stink bugs are often mistakenly called beetles (order Coleoptera), despite having being members of a distinct order. While there are a number of anatomical differences between the true bugs and the beetles, one of the most distinctive can be seen in their mouth parts. Members of the true bugs all have modified their mouth parts into a sucking proboscis like structure. Composed of fused mandible and maxillae used for piercing and housed within a labium, most stink bugs use this proboscis to feed on the fluids of plants though a few species are predators of other insects.

Another distinct difference between true bugs and beetles can be seen in their wing structure. The beetle’s elytra (fore-wings) are entirely hardened and are not used for flight. These form a protective barrier for their alae (hind-wings). Both pairs of wings sit side by side and do not overlap, as they are in the true bugs. The true bugs also either have fully membranous wings or partially hardened elytra. In the case of true bugs with partially hardened elytra, the alae will be membranous, but many true bugs with membranous elytra will posses either reduced or completely lack their alae.

The final primary difference can be seen in their life cycle. Beetles are endopteryotes, meaning they go through a complete metamorphosis from a larval stage where as the true bugs are hemimetabolous and, after hatching, their young often appear as under-developed adults, known as nymphs. Often lacking wings until being gained during a molting (the most well known case of this, and also a member order Hemiptera, is the cicada) stink bug nymphs still possess the ability to produce the noxious chemicals found in the adults, though sometimes in a less developed way.

All members of superfamily Pentomoidea (which gets its name from these insects trade-mark 5 segmented antennae) either have a rounded or somewhat triangular body plan. Most in North America are more familiar with the angular body plan, but both forms are common. One of the easiest ways to tell if you are dealing with a member of this superfamily (other than the often nauseating odor when they are disturbed) is their well developed scutellum. This is a hardened extension of the thorax that covers the abdomen and protects part of the insect’s body and its wings, it is also the source of the common names ‘shield bug’ and ‘chest bug’. The scutellum is often mistaken as the hardened fore-wings of the beetles despite not being a part of the wing structures. Instead, the fore-wings are partially hardened and leathery to cover the membranous hind-wings, which are the primary source of flight. This combination of hardened and membranous wings gives the insect its characteristic buzzing sound while in flight.

Because of many stink bugs feeding off of the fluids of plants, many are considered major agricultural pests. A prime example of this can be seen with the introduction of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys) to the North-Eastern United States from various parts of East Asia where it is also a common agricultural pest. First spotted in 1988, this species has quickly spread and now threatens crops as diverse as apples, sweet corn, peaches, soy beans, blackberries and others. Besides the damage to crops, many species of stink bugs are also common household pests where their repulsive sent makes many homeowners unsure of how to remove them without causing the insects to release their defensive chemicals. Despite being a common pest, some stink bugs are desirable due to their predatory nature, often feeding off of insects considered pests themselves.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.


Many stink bugs take advantage of a survival technique known as clustering. This occurs when multiple insects congregate to increase their chances of survival as a group and, in some species, to mate. This form of aggregation is often aided by pheromones many species use to attract other individuals and mates. If these pheromones are present, they are typically produced by exocrine glands on the abdomen. It seems a wise maneuver to move in numbers when many animals are afraid to take on one insect, let alone risk a potential sudden cloud of terribly smelling chemicals.

But I’m sure what many of you have been waiting to read involves the source of their most common of names. This has to do with a defensive measure that most members of superfamily Pentatomoidea share to one degree or another, the use of chemical weaponry. Housed in special glands found on either side of the thorax, these insects emit of spray of odiferous chemicals. The nature of these chemicals varies from specie to specie with the most common derivatives being alcohols, aldehydes and esters. In a few species, the compound is based off of cyanide and has the poison’s trademark almond like scent, though despite being based on a potent toxin, exposure is not fatal to humans. It should be noted that there are a few insects that also posses foul smelling chemical defences that have no relation to the true stink bugs. These include the pinacate beetles (genus Eleodes) and the Box Elder Bug (Boisea trivittata) amongst others.

While few can tolerate the rancid smell if allowed to spray, some people have found another use for these pungent insects. As astonishing as it might sound for an insect notorious for its scent, many stink bugs are used in various cuisines from around the globe. Most commonly eaten in Vietnam, Laos and Mexico, they are often prized for their strong flavor.

Thank you Holte Ender for the request!
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

It’s the end of the world as we know it…


Well now that I have gotten the tune to a song that no one can properly hope to sing stuck in your head, it is time to celebrate the end of the world!

But what should you expect on the rapture?  Well one thing to keep in mind is if you go out, be sure to wear a rain coat.  Why you might ask?  Just think of how much mess a flock of birds flying overhead can make and imagine how much worse it would be with a group of humans scared shitless (quite literally) by their sudden loss of gravity. 

You should also expect to have massive cancellations of flights.  After the first two or three planes experience in flight emergencies after their engines get clogged up with bits of Christian chunks, flights everywhere will be grounded until the sky-lanes finally clear of the flocks of believers.

The believers that make it past the airplanes will have a few other things to contend with.  The first is the fact that oxygen levels and temperatures quickly begin to drop the higher up in the atmosphere you get.  Soon the excited believers will begin to become panic stricken once they realize that the writers of the bible had a very poor grasp of the fundamentals of our planet.  I imagine god will be pretty embarrassed when he goes out to greet the first of his chosen only to find them as lifeless meat-sicles. 

The various space agencies are likely also to be rather pissed by god’s oversight.  Our planets orbit is already littered with bits of space junk that perpetually threaten the many artificial satellites that help maintain our modern life.  All they need is a few thousand more things to track, not to mention the disruption of the amazing view those on the International Space Station has after it becomes obscured with the morbid vista of countless bodies drifting past.

Of course it is also possible that this entire thing is the creation of a series of deluded minds attempting to interpret the ramblings of ignorant ancient desert dwellers as absolute truth and nothing more than a lot of embarrassed back-tracking from the die-hard believers will come of this.  Perhaps there will even be an explosion of people coming to their senses about all this rapture business with former believers realizing that their invisible sky daddy is nothing more than a silly myth that should have been set aside with the likes of the tooth fairy.  People might learn from the error of their petty divisive beliefs and attempt to more forward as a more unified society.  On second thought, we should all probably just be on the lookout for someone claiming to have uncovered the ‘real’ date of the rapture for the believers to cling on to.
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Friday, May 20, 2011

Class Holothuroidea, the Sea Cucumbers

The sea cucumber Bohadschia argus

Echinoderms, in general, are an often overlooked group of creatures.  Other than for being ubiquitous members of tidal pools and the ocean floor, your average person knows little about them.  One class in particular, Holothuroidea, is generally seen as just a curiosity despite having a series of downright bizarre traits and behaviors.  Commonly known as the Sea Cucumbers due to their cylindrical appearance, these scavengers can be found in every ocean.  Not only are they indigenous to all oceans, many species travel in herds that can reach numbers well over a thousand.

Like other living echinoderms such as sea stars, urchins, brittle stars and crinoids, sea cucumbers posses what is known as pentaradial symmetry.  This means that their body plan can be split into five equal sides.  At first sea cucumbers seem to break this rule, but that is only when looked at from above.  When observed on end, the pentaradial symmetry is easily distinguishable.  What appears to be bilateral symmetry at first glance is an intriguing illusion when you take into consideration that all echinoderms evolved from a common ancestor that possessed bilateral symmetry, a feature that is only shown in modern day larval forms. 

Your average sea cucumber feeds by sucking up ocean sediment like a living vacuum cleaner.  Using feeding tentacles, they pick through the sediment and the remaining substrate is passed out the opposite end.  A few species will go so far as to extend their feeding tentacles to pick pieces of food out of the passing current they position themselves near.  There is also one species that gains its nourishment through a commensal relationship with deep-sea angler fish, though little is known about this relationship. They generally propel themselves along on 8-30 small tube feet that make use of echinoderms trademark water vascular system which is essentially a body wide hydraulic system.  One subclass, Apodacea, has gone so far as to completely lose their tube feet and instead burrows through sediment with a series of muscular contractions along their body.

All sea cucumbers have an endoskeleton, but in most, it has become greatly reduced to little more than small ossicles sparsely numbered throughout the mesoderm.  A few species have adopted hardened calciferous plates covering their body for protection, but it is not common.  This leaves most sea cucumbers with a rather soft texture that makes one wonder what sort of cucumbers the person was eating who granted these creatures their common name.  Many sea cucumbers make perfect use of their squishy bodies when it comes to getting into tight spaces.  Their body tissues contain a modified form of collagen known as catch collagen.  In most animals, this provides tissues with a flexible, but strong nature by forming a network of interconnected proteins.  Sea cucumbers have modified this protein so that they can become viscous at will allowing them to literally pour their tissues through a tight crevice.  Once in, they can let their catch collagen reconnect, reforming their tissues into the orderly form it once was.

As if turning themselves to liquid wasn’t odd enough, members of the order Aspidochirotida have a somewhat…unsettling defense mechanism.  They turn their anus at an attacker and through a tear between the coelom (body cavity) and cloaca (the common opening for the intestinal, urinary and reproductive tracts), they expel their respiratory tree which is coated in toxins and a sticky material.  This process, known as evisceration, ensnaring the would be predator in what one can only compare to the most nauseating imitation of Spider-Man ever.

One would think having the ability to spew toxic innards out of one’s ass would keep any sane creature away, but one peculiar fish is not detered.  Known as the pearlfish, many members of the family Carapidae make their home within the confines of the sea cucumber’s cloaca.  These slender fish often cause no harm or benefit to their host and simply use the space to remain hidden within.  A few species have been known to…ahem…eat out the sea cucumber, but this behavior is rare.  A few members of pearlfish have found their home so comfy they invite in their mate.  In a disturbing twist, the pearlfish uses the reproductive space of the sea cumber as its own love abode.

For the most part, sea cucumbers possess few traits useful to humans, though the flesh of some species is eaten in certain oriental cuisine.   Sea cucumbers have also been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine for generations, though the effectiveness is debatable.  A study single has suggested that the fatty acids found in sea cucumber tissue could play a role in tissue repair, but the actual use was never tested.  Another study found an extract could be useful for internal pain when studied on mice, but there was no effect when applied for external pain leaving the validity of the study in doubt.  Finally, a recent study concluded that the Lectin protein (used in the binding of sugar) found in the species Cucumaria echinata actually inhibited the growth of the Malaria parasite.

Most sea cucumbers are dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female sexes.  A few species are protandric, which allows members of one sex transform themselves over to the other sex at one or more points in their life.  The average life cycle involves mass spawning into the current with the ensuing zygote and eventual larvae joining the planktonic drift.  About 30 species, however, fertilize internally.  Once the egg hatches, a feeding tentacle grabs the larva and moves it into a brood pouch for development.  Here they grow to maturity and either crawl out from where they entered or make a rupture out the back end near the anus.  This explosive birth is not fatal to the adult who possesses astonishing regenerative capabilities (after all, if they can re-grow their ‘lungs’ a hernia should pose few problems).

This article was written at the request of one of my readers over at Mad Mikes America.  Anyone who would have a request for an article, feel free to either leave the request in the comments section.  Thank you Morgan Williams for your request!
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The real events behind Area 51



I was at a bookstore the other day and happened to pass by the rack of new releases.  I often take the time to check for anything new that might catch my interest.  One book caught my attention but I was also weary.  Entitled Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobson, I was torn between picking it up for would could be an intriguing look into US military history or running off in the opposite direction before the crazy inside the book could infect me.

In the end my fascination with military research and development lost to my wariness.  I later found out that this it was right to follow my instincts on this.  By chance I came across an article reviewing the very book that piqued my intrigue.  Written in Bloomberg by Andrew Dun, the author more than confirmed my greatest fears about this book and left me laughing at the insanity.

The book starts out as a legitimate history of a military installation founded on the heels of the Manhattan Project.  And while it stays within the bounds of historical accuracy for most of the book, one section takes a screeching left out of accurate territory into the twisted streets of crazyville.

Annie Jacobson cites a single unnamed former engineer for the US government who tells of an even more secret history involving what really happened all those years ago at a little placed called Roswell. Now for those who are up on their history, they know that the claimed alien crash was actually an accident involving project Mogul, which used high altitude microphones mounted on weather balloons to eavesdrop on any potential Soviet nuclear tests.  

But instead of explaining this already interesting story Jacobson claims her source informed her that this was just a cover up for what really happened, and it wasn’t actually aliens either.  Instead, what crashed in 1947 was a Soviet experimental aircraft.  This craft was built after blueprints stolen from a Nazi facility during the invasion of Germany at the tail end of World War II. The ‘alien symbols was actually Cyrillic writing, which apparently, no one at the US government facility had ever seen despite having access to some of the greatest engineering minds of the day.  The craft was built specifically so that it would crash at the military base to sow confusion amongst US forces. It was claimed that the hopes of the Soviets were that US researchers would spend so much time trying to reverse engineer the ‘alien’ craft and keep the event secret that it would slow actual development of US military technology.

To make things more interesting, the Soviets captured Josef Mengele who was forced to provide surgically altered “grotesque child-sized aviators” who were to somehow survive the crash and then climb out of the wreckage in hopes of being mistaken for alien visitors. The idea was to invoke the kind of hysteria caused by the 1938 radio broadcast of Orson Well’s “War of the Worlds”.

For those of you think this is all some big joke, Annie Jacobson closes this section of her book by stating that this revelation will gratify those of her readers who already suspected all much. Quite obviously she does not think much of the intellectual faculties of her readers. Who would honestly see this story as the most likely scenario behind the events of that night? More importantly, why have these people stopped taking their medication.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Atheists have better sex!

In religious debates, a common tactic is for the theist to claim that their belief grants them a sense of well being. They claim it makes their day to day lives are better and to be without religion, there would be a gaping hole left in them. Well a study by organizational psychologist Darrel Ray, Ed.D and undergraduate Amanda Brown have determined that any 'gaping hole' would have been supported by its own weight in guilt, at least when it comes to sex.

9,500 people fully answered the survey devised by the researchers to determine if their sex lives had changed since leaving religion (14,500 people, in all, participated but not all completed the survey). What was found is after leaving religion, their feeling of guilt after sex was greatly reduced. As an added bonus, 50% claimed to have had better sex then they had while being believers. It seems when you don't believe a magic man in the sky is watching you, you won't feel bad about getting it on with your partner.

The survey took samples from 94 countries though the majority came from the United States. The sample sizes came down to 5.1% from Canada, 4.7% from the UK, 2.7% from Australia, and the remaining countries never comprised more than .75% of the sample group.

What denomination a person held affected their level of guilt rather strongly. Those who came from a more fundamentalist background felt the most relief while more open belief systems such as Unitarianism had the least guilt attached to their sex lives.

It was also found that the kind of sexual behavior people would partake in would remain the same. So losing religion did not lead to new kinds of sex, just more satisfying sex. This is important to note as many who are locked in a faith believe the would become sexual deviants without the aid of their religion.

When asked about their sexual education, it was reported that those from more conservative households were the least likely to be informed, where as the more progressive and especially non-religious tended to be more informed about sexual matters. This did not reduce the age or number of sexual events, as both had approximately the same, just those from non-religious or non-denominational houses were more informed beforehand.

One expected outcome never did show itself. After losing religion, the guilt left behind quickly faded. Most reported there being no long term affects on their sex lives from having been a part of a religion. So we can safely say that it doesn't matter how long you have been a believer as once you stop, the sex will always get more rewarding

So the next time a theist claims that religion has improved their lives, you can whip out this study (hopefully only this study) and show them the fun you are having without all that guilt.

---------------------------------------------------
References:
Sex and Secularism
By Darrel Ray, Ed.D. and Amanda Brown1
IPCpress.com
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dissociative Identity Disorder



ResearchBlogging.orgDissociative Identity Disorder (DID), or if you go by its common name, multiple personality disorder, is an interesting subject to say the least. It is also a subject with which there is much contention. There are even some that claim it does not even exist.

First I would like to address one of the prime reasons why DID is not accepted as a diagnosis. This goes back to the 1990's when there was the wonderful satanic cult fiasco. The new thing in psychology was regression and hypnosis. Now, hypnosis is a viable means of therapy, as it calms the person and makes them feel more safe and reduces stress. But it also opens the patient to suggestion. In the right setting, the patient will be able to open up and reveal things on their own. But in this state, if pressed for answers, the mind will create false answers that fit to the best of its knowledge, and this is where the trouble began.

The patients were asked things they did not have answer for and, in the suggestible state their minds would create scenarios that would fit with the requested information. Add in a little guiding from those determined to find the 'truth' of the satanic rituals and you have the beginnings of a very bad situation.

The most common questions pressured for were those of abuse. If a mind had not experienced any then there was no problem, but in this state of suggestibility and being pressured by their therapists, the patients began creating scenarios to satisfy those who were looking.

It is unsure when DID (then, MPD) was drawn into it, but a connection between severe abuse and DID is what made some convinced that the satanic attacks were occurring. Eventually it was revealed that some therapists were leading on their patients as well as a few manipulative patients who were eager for attention were twisting words around to satisfy credulous therapists. Some of the patients would fake signs of DID for attention, some therapists would poke and prod hoping to find another alter (the term for the differing personalities) until their patient's mind created something from all the suggestion. These weren't true cases of DID, but people who were deluded into thinking they were. Unfortunately as more media attention was shone on the situation, the fake multiples were put in the light as much as the satanist seeking therapists. Which led to a connection between the two in far to many people's eyes.

As one case closed after the other and all the hype and hysteria washed away, the psychology world looked in on itself to try and figure out what went wrong and how not to have a repeat. During this, many saw DID as having been a part of the problem and, as such, should be dismissed as fraudulent as well.  They thought it was simply signs of attention seeking. While many fake cases did arise during the situation, this did not have any bearing on cases of DID that have been known long before this.

And there have been many, DID cases have been potentially written about as far back as 1791 (see link for a more thorough history of DID). It has always been exceedingly rare and while its prevalence has never been accurately noted, it is believed to form in around .05% of the population.

The reason for the splitting comes down to survival in most cases. While not always the case, DID generally forms in cases of severe childhood abuse. The torment the individual goes through becomes more than they can bear so the mind attempts to wipe it out, pressing it down and creating a new 'person' to deal with the new situation. This way the alters (the other personalities) can take the abuse in pieces so that they are not overwhelmed by so much trauma. When the splitting occurs, parts of the whole are often separated, leaving the alters to perform different roles. One may be a protector, another may overly mature to take care of themselves, while yet another may have been solely there to absorb the abuse (this often leads to alters who become suicidal, unable to cope with what they know).

Most of the time, a person with DID is so good at acting 'normal' that nothing seems wrong with them at all. This is all part of the survival, acting normal, in abusive situations is the best way to avoid furthering the situation. Acting abnormal in any way only singles out the person for further abuse. So the person hides it, often from themselves (as the memories are divided just as the personalities are). It is only after self examination (sometimes with the help of a therapist, the good kind now) can the person realize they are part of a collective mind. This obviously is a conclusion not easily accepted and is often flat out denied even with the evidence put before them.

Once it is accepted, communication between the alters may commence. In some cases the barriers of the mind are thin enough that they may communicate with one another freely. Other times, they are trapped separately and only a few can talk to one another with each having their own place. Some may remain in hiding from the others, still too terrified or feeling too alone to be able to contact the others. In some instances a reunification may occur, but only if all personalities are willing. Often, they have developed enough on their own that it would not feel right to merge together completely, some instead just move to the point where the barriers can be dropped between the personalities and each may communicate with the other freely. This creates a more free flowing situation while still having the individual space.

An unusual occurrence can occur where an alter of the alternate gender, for whatever reason, forms. Some alters may not even be quite human if the need arises. If the condition calls for a more animalistic being to survive the situation, cope with the emotions, or because something occurs that cannot be understood, these may also form.

While the debate about the condition has gone on for years, there has been a study that gives physical evidence for multiples. It is known that those with stress related psychiatric conditions such as PTSD have smaller hypocampal volumes. This is also noted in clinical depression with childhood abuse and borderline personality disorder with childhood abuse. It is also noted that in borderline patients with noted childhood trauma a decreased amygdalar volumes as well. When a small study of fifteen noted cases of DID were given MRIs, all showed reduced hypocampal volumes and decreased amygdalar volumes. While all control patients did not show this anomaly. This evidence lends credence to those with DID. DID is still a stigmatized and misunderstood condition and any evidence to get those who deny the existence of this condition to accept will be a boon for both current and future DID patients.
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References:
Vermetten E, Schmahl C, Lindner S, Loewenstein RJ, & Bremner JD (2006). Hippocampal and amygdalar volumes in dissociative identity disorder. The American journal of psychiatry, 163 (4), 630-6 PMID: 16585437
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The Sound Of Freethinking: #12: Big Brothel

With the song Big Brothel, Colony 5 has created an interesting bit of commentary on the pointlessness and disturbingly short attention span of the media and most of its viewers. While this song is six years old, it loses none of its poignancy to time.

We sadly live in a culture where the most moronic of us get some of the most attention (Glen Beck anyone?). Where all one has to do to gain some fame is act like an idiot on television and they will have all they could desire...at least until the masses grow bored and need something new to keep them entertained.

With so much going wrong in our world, how is it these fools can garner the most attention? Do people feel they have enough to deal with and just want an escape? If so, then all they are doing is ignoring the truth in favor for their own fantasies (a bit like religion, no?) I've heard this excuse many times and find it hollow and pathetic. It is to say that your own comfort is more important than the future of our species and the lives of others.  With thanks to the lovely Misa Akane for making the video



Those inexpressive faces
Displaying useless minds
Idiots with a tan
And one-year lifespan

I flip through the channels
I flip through different ways
of humiliation
Different freaks every week

And for us this seems
Remarkable and sad
That folk need
To be stupid, to be bad
To gain fame
A fake respect
a revotting reputation
is the key to the media nation

A famine in North Africa
Genocide in South America
Revolution in East Asia
Suppression in Malaysia

Peace process in Palestine
It's a battle of wits
There's no place in the headlines
Cause BB blonde got new tits
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Adetomyrma venatrix, the Dracula Ant



For your average ant, work is grueling no matter what species you belong to. All working towards the common good and hoping the colonies lineage will be passed on, even if it takes the sacrifice of a few workers. But there is one species where sacrifice becomes a full time job.

To find it, you must search the Zombitse Forest. Yes, you are looking for ants in a forest in Western Madagascar that does not give you pause to consider the sanity of looking for something called Dracula Ants in amongst the brush which will be sure to be infested with tiny zombies. After the initial lamentations, you should be up to scowling out these tiny forest creatures.

Eventually you will find a colony of Adetomyma venatrix, the Dracula Ant. At first look you might be intrigued by the ants body form. Nearly a 'missing link', these ants resemble wasps more than ants. They have only one joint between their thorax and abdomen instead of three like other species of ants. They also have an elongated stinger as well as have lost the use of their eyes.

About now you are probably wondering why does this evolutionary curiosity have such a distinguished name as Dracula? Well this has to do with how they gain their nourishment. Normal ants have their larvae eat the food and pre-digest it for the workers and pass it along. But Dracula Ants are busy and need their nourishment a bit more...fluidic.

Hungary queens, drones, and workers need only chew open the head of one of their own young to find all the nutrients they could need. Their larvae have an abundance of blood, well actually, Hemolymph, which the adults of the colony can just drink their fill of.

When observed it is noted that the larvae are not fond of the arrangement in the least, as they try to crawl away when workers are present and tiny ant screams can even be detected as the adults drink their younger's vital fluids. The survivors then pupate into adult ants and continue the cycle of work and "nondestructive cannibalism".
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Friday, May 13, 2011

Pseudacteon

What child was not given an ant farm at one point in their lives (or if you were poor, just played with the ants that undoubtedly crawled throughout your kitchen stealing what little food you had)? Spending hours watching them make their endless tunnels only to eventually grow bored and end up shaking the whole thing to destroy their painstaking work to prove that you were the superior species.

The ant farm: bringing out the sadist in children since 1956.

But when nature looks down on the tiny any, she doesn’t see hours of discovery and wonderment. No, she sees a seemingly endless supply of potential zombies. In fact nature loves infecting the insect world’s tireless little laborers, proving that even the universe looks down upon dutiful workers as nothing more than a disposable resource. From the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, a fungi that forces its host to climb up a plant stalk above the colony and grab onto the plant with its mandibles until it dies and a stalk grows from its head to rain down its zombifying spores upon the hapless colony; to Dicrocoelium dendriticum, a lancet fluke that also causes ants to climb up plant stalks (but only at night while the rest of the colony is sleeping so as not to be noticed, like some sort of horrible were-ant) so that it may be eaten by grazing sheep and cows, its primary hosts. But the absolute most terrifying has to be Pseudacteon, a genus related to the harmless but ever annoying fruit fly. As we all know, evolution is not content to keep anything harmless when there is a way to turn it into a source of our deepest fears. The female of these tiny flies (about the size of an ant’s head) search for colonies of only one species of ant (the species depends on the species of Pseudacteon). When it finds a suitable host, it dive bombs the ants until it can grab one and stab its thorax with its ovipositor, injecting it with a single egg before flying off. At this point the ant is probably freaking the hell out, but other than having a crazy story to tell the rest of the colony that must be reminiscent of hillbillies and their stories of alien abduction, the ant is mostly unharmed.

As the ant is being told that it was just a crazy dream by its nest mates, the egg hatches and migrates to the head of the ant. It is here that it begins to feast on everything around it. As more and more of its brain is eaten away, the ant begins to wander away from the colony in a rather aimless fashion. A few days in, the entire contents of the head are eaten yet the body continues to wander at behest of its new master. At this point the ant is a zombie in the traditional sense, a dead body wandering about, and yes, only a head shot can ‘kill’ it.

Years of survival horror games have prepared you for this very moment.

Eventually the larvae is ready to pupate, but having the zombie body would just be a hassle, so it does what any self respecting source of terror does, it causes the head to fall off and uses the empty skull as a cozy metamorphosis chamber. It then emerges a fully developed fly and buzzes off to find a mate and continue the cycle anew. I’m sure this is exactly what Disney had in mind with that “Circle of Life” song from “The Lion King”.

To make sure you don’t sleep ever, I should let you in on a little secret. These tiny abominations that would give Ridley Scott nightmares are being bred in captivity en mass. You see, a particular species preys only on Fire Ants, a species of ant that has been invading vast areas of land throughout the Americas. To combat this, certain groups in the Unites States have decided it would be a good idea to raise huge amounts of these face-hugger flies and see if they might help control the spread of Fire Ants. Thus far, the project has shown no noticeable change in the spread of these invasive ants. But when the tiny zombie apocalypse occurs, we will at least know who to blame, we’re looking at you University of Texas at Austin. Why are we not surprised that Texas would be the one to doom us all.
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Tennessee, protecting kids from the evil gays

Now I wish I had come across this sooner, as the news about it came out on the 21st of last month, but I had to mention it as it is a real threat to sanity. Tennessee, that ever so progressive state, has passed a bill from a committee to the state senate floor that would make it illegal to mention homosexuality in any way in schools before the ninth grade.

This bill is one that has been fought for by Republicans for the last six years. Created by Senator Stacey Campfield, and known as the "Don't say gay" bill, it states that:

"No public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality."

Because we all know, if you just ignore something you don't like (or make it illegal) it will go away. Have a kid who is coming to terms with their sexuality? To bad, you better hide it because Tennessee doesn't want to hear about it or help you. This is the kind of idiocy created by people who honestly think sexual orientation is a choice and roving bands of homosexuals are out to corrupt their children.

This is not the first bit of nuttery from Campfield. Previously, he made an attempt to pass a bill that would require death certificates to be given for aborted fetuses. He was also behind attempts to force women getting an abortion to look at ultrasound images, eliminate the state's pre-kindergarten program and also make it legal to carry a firearm onto a college campus. Yet he still has quite a bit of support from many Republicans, which just shows how bat-shit insane they really are.

Upon hearing this, George Takei made a comment on his twitter once again proving his brilliant wit:

TN bill will prevent teachers from using the word "gay" in class. In response, I'm lending them my name: "It's okay to be Takei."
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