MonthJanuary 2007

Calling Bullshit on Penn and Teller’s yoga episode

When Fell posted a Bullshit! segment a while back, I provided some thoughts about the two episodes I had seen.

I just watched the yoga segment of their “new age” episode last night, and thought it was even worse. This is a really old episode and it might not make any sense to respond to it after all this time, but here it goes anyway.

First things first, they say that yoga is “just stretching.” They’re either being deliberately misleading here, or they didn’t bother to stay for more than the first 5 minutes of the yoga class they filmed (or they found a yoga class that was not representative of yoga classes in general).

ashtanga yoga

ashtanga yoga

(Pics swiped from Yoga Bhoga in Portland).

OK, so the pics above are relatively advanced (I believe they’re Ashtanga, aka power yoga, positions), but I think you can get the point – yoga is also about exercise using your own weight. Saying “yoga is just a fancy name for stretching” doesn’t hold water. Asking “does yoga hold up against other forms of strength training” is a valid question to ask. All I can say is that yoga (including “hatha yoga,” the most common, basic yoga) classes challenge my strength every time.

Neither does their claim that yoga is bogus because stretching a muscle longer than 30 seconds is not useful. I rarely, if ever, have been instructed to hold a stretch for more than 30 seconds. When a position is held longer it’s held for the purposes of strength, discipline, and/or relaxation. The exception is when you’re actually pushing a stretch further and further, which doesn’t found for “holding” because you’re actually advancing.

The other claim Penn and Teller make is that yoga is more expensive than other exercise classes. In my experience, it is not. Most of the gyms/health clubs in Portland offer yoga classes along with other exercise classes as part of your standard fees. I know that $15 seems to be the going rate for drop-ins at yoga classes in the Portland area, but I don’t know what the rate for other strength training classes are. (Yoga classes are cheaper when prepaid in advance or as part of a package deal, and there’s actually a free class at Liberty Hall).

It would have been more interesting to see P&T evaluate some of the other claims about yoga, such as improved immune systems, stress relief, etc. as compared to other forms of exercise, or even how yoga stacks up as strength training. But to dismiss it as overpriced stretching is bullshit.

Thinking With The Spinal Cord?

Two scientists from the University of Copenhagen have demonstrated that the spinal cord use network mechanisms similar to those used in the brain. The discovery is featured in the current issue of Science.

The research group behind the surprising results consists of Professor J?rn Hounsgaard and postdoc Rune W. Berg from the University of Copenhagen, and Assistant Professor and PhD Aidas Alaburda from the University of Vilnius. The group has shown that spinal neurons, during network activity underlying movements, show the similar irregular firing patterns as seen in the cerebral cortex.

Full Story: Science Daily.

(Thanks Danny Chaoflux).

Professor Uses Tai Chi To Fight Degenerative Nerve Disease

Peripheral neuropathy is a degenerative nerve disease with no cure and few effective treatment options — until now. Li Li, professor of kinesiology at LSU, is conducting a study into the benefits of tai chi for elderly peripheral neuropathy patients. So far, those practicing tai chi show far greater levels of improvement that those pursuing more traditional methods of treatment.

Full Story: Science Daily.

(Thanks Danny Choaflux).

Cheap, safe drug kills most cancers

The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines. The pay-off is that if DCA does work, it will be easy to manufacture and dirt cheap.

Full Story: New Scientist.

Click through to find out more, and find out how to you can donate to the cause. Let’s pass this one around.

(via Lupa).

Endless universe made possible by new model

A new cosmological model demonstrates the universe can endlessly expand and contract, providing a rival to Big Bang theories and solving a thorny modern physics problem, according to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill physicists.

The cyclic model proposed by Dr. Paul Frampton, Louis J. Rubin Jr. distinguished professor of physics in UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences, and co-author Lauris Baum, a UNC graduate student in physics, has four key parts: expansion, turnaround, contraction and bounce.

During expansion, dark energy — the unknown force causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate — pushes and pushes until all matter fragments into patches so far apart that nothing can bridge the gaps. Everything from black holes to atoms disintegrates. This point, just a fraction of a second before the end of time, is the turnaround.

At the turnaround, each fragmented patch collapses and contracts individually instead of pulling back together in a reversal of the Big Bang. The patches become an infinite number of independent universes that contract and then bounce outward again, reinflating in a manner similar to the Big Bang. One patch becomes our universe.

‘This cycle happens an infinite number of times, thus eliminating any start or end of time,’ Frampton said. ‘There is no Big Bang.’

Full Story: UNC web site.

Colo. immigration law falls short of goal

Colorado’s new law banning state spending on illegal immigrants has cost more than $2 million to enforce – and has saved the state nothing.

Less than a year after politically charged debates on illegal immigration, officials are reporting high costs, no savings and unexpected problems with the new laws.

Once touted by statehouse Republicans and Democrats as the toughest anti-immigration package in the nation, the Colorado crackdown is falling apart.

Full Story: Denver Post.

(via Hit and Run).

New X-Clan album and video

The legendary mystical hip hop outfit X-Clan’s new album is out on Tuesday.

The neurology of self-awareness

“Rama” explores the concept of the self, tying in the ideas of researchers such as Horace Barlow, Nick Humphrey, David Premack and Marvin Minsky (among others), who have suggested that consciousness may have evolved primarily in a social context. This includes Minsky’s ideas on “a second parallel mechanism that has evolved in humans to create representations of earlier representations” and Humphrey’s arguments “that our ability to introspect may have evolved specifically to construct meaningful models of other peoples minds in order to predict their behavior. ”

“Have we solved the problem of self?”, he asks in concluding the essay. “Obviously not – we have barely scratched the surface. But hopefully we have paved the way for future models and empirical studies on the nature of self, a problem that philosophers have made essentially no headway in solving. (And not for want of effort – they have been at it for three thousand years). Hence our grounds for optimism about the future of brain research – especially for solving what is arguably Science’s greatest riddle.”

Full Story: Edge.

(via Posthuman Blues)

Watchers watching other watchers

It seems that people in the UK are on a rampage against surveillance cameras… but not to worry, the authorities have a solution:

Speed cameras in the Scottish Borders may soon be monitored by security cameras to protect them from vandals.


Hit and Run has coverage.

The Dreadlock Recollections. The last journals of Kerry Thornley

ovo 17 dreadlock recollections kerry thornley

Published for the first time, the newest issue of OVO collects the last writings of Kerry Thornley (the author of the Principia Discordia, who later confessed to the assassination of John F. Kennedy).

OVO 17.

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