“[...] the way drugs are often portrayed as nothing but harmful and damaging is quite disconcerting; it suggests that taking drugs is akin to trying to increase the speed of your computer by pouring coffee over the motherboard; you're going to experience a lot of new sights, sounds and smells, but cause irreversible damage in the process. That's not how it works. Many drugs are effective because they work on systems in the brain that are already there. Opiates like heroin work on opiate receptors, cocaine affects the dopamine system (amongst others). The brain and body have evolved over millions of years to recognise and utilise these chemicals, and drugs typically work because they are analogous to the substances that occur naturally in our bodies. E.g. cannabis works because the brain has endogenous cannabinoids.”—Dean Burnett on the recent study that states that cannabis use is linked to reduced IQ.
“Internet Addiction" may soon spread like wildfire. All the elements favoring fad generation are in place. . . the profusion of alarming books; the breathless articles in magazines and newspapers; extensive TV exposure; ubiquitous blogs; the springing up of unproven treatment programs; the availability of millions of potential patients; and an exuberant trumpeting by newly minted "thought leading" researchers and clinicians. [...] There is no doubt that most of us have become hooked on our electronic devices and that some people are gravely harmed by what develops into an unhealthy and uncontrollable attachment to them. The question is how best to understand, define, and deal with this. What does the term "addiction" mean and when is it a useful way of describing our passions and needs? We don't consider ourselves addicted to our cars, TV's, refrigerators, or air conditioners. Is attachment to the Internet fundamentally different?”—
The whole concept of behavioral addictions is highly controversial and has never heretofore been given any official status. There is a good reason for this. It is extremely difficult to distinguish the relatively few people who are really enslaved by shopping, sex, work, golf (or the Internet) from the huge army of those who are attached to these as pleasurable recreation. It should not be counted as a mental disorder and be called an “addiction” just because you really love an activity, get a lot of pleasure from it, and spend a lot of time doing it. To be considered “addicted,” you should be compulsively stuck doing something that is no longer fun, feels out of control, serves no useful purpose, and is certainly not worth the pain, costs, and harms. The unfavorable cost/benefit ratio should be pretty lopsided before mental disorder is considered.
We all do dumb things that offer short-term pleasures but cause bad long term consequences. It is not “addiction” whenever someone gets into trouble because of over-spending, golfing too much, or having repeated sexual indiscretions. That’s our human nature—derived from many millions of years of evolutionary experience where life was short, opportunities for pleasure rare, and the long term didn’t count for nearly as much as it does now. There is a risky slippery slope if we medicalize our pleasure seeking, irresponsible selves.
Welcome to science. You’re gonna like it here.
I know a place where the Sun never sets.
It’s a mountain, and it’s on the Moon. It sticks up so high that even as the Moon spins, it’s in perpetual daylight. Radiation from the Sun pours down on there day and night, 24 hours a day — well, the Moon’s day is actually about 4 weeks long, so the sunlight pours down there 708 hours a day.
I know a place where the Sun never shines. It’s at the bottom of the ocean. A crack in the crust there exudes nasty chemicals and heats the water to the boiling point. This would kill a human instantly, but there are creatures there, bacteria, that thrive. They eat the sulfur from the vent, and excrete sulfuric acid.
I know a place where the temperature is 15 million degrees, and the pressure would crush you to a microscopic dot. That place is the core of the Sun.
I know a place where the magnetic fields would rip you apart, atom by atom: the surface of a neutron star, a magnetar.
I know a place where life began billions of years ago. That place is here, the Earth.
I know these places because I’m a scientist.
Science is a way of finding things out. It’s a way of testing what’s real. It’s what Richard Feynman called “A way of not fooling ourselves.”
No astrologer ever predicted the existence of Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto. No modern astrologer had a clue about Sedna, a ball of ice half the size of Pluto that orbits even farther out. No astrologer predicted the more than 150 planets now known to orbit other suns.
But scientists did.
No psychic, despite their claims, has ever helped the police solve a crime. But forensic scientists have, all the time.
It wasn’t someone who practices homeopathy who found a cure for smallpox, or polio. Scientists did, medical scientists.
No creationist ever cracked the genetic code. Chemists did. Molecular biologists did.
They used physics. They used math. They used chemistry, biology, astronomy, engineering.
They used science.
These are all the things you discovered doing your projects. All the things that brought you here today.
Computers? Cell phones? Rockets to Saturn, probes to the ocean floor, PSP, gamecubes, gameboys, X-boxes? All by scientists.
Those places I talked about before? You can get to know them too. You can experience the wonder of seeing them for the first time, the thrill of discovery, the incredible, visceral feeling of doing something no one has ever done before, seen things no one has seen before, know something no one else has ever known.
No crystal balls, no tarot cards, no horoscopes. Just you, your brain, and your ability to think.
Welcome to science. You’re gonna like it here.
-Phil Plait, Ph.D
Put Some Spring in your Perspective at DSC
The Da Vinci Science Center is bidding farewell to the winter doldrums and embracing spring’s ExSCIting Possibilities As cold weather and gray skies give way to warmth and sunshine, we encourage you to join us as we celebrate new beginnings and explore new perspectives.
The fun begins this Friday, March 23, with our Spring Fling Members’ Night event. Members will swing into the season with a Spring Scavenger Hunt, in which they attempt to find springs inside everyday objects. Members also will play with toys with spring power, including slinkies, wacky walkers, and boinks. Refreshments will be provided by Chick-fil-A, and the Chick-fil-A cow will make a a special appearance. Members can submit their RSVP on the web by completing a short form.
The Da Vinci Science Center will hold its annual Science Hall of Fame and Science Works events May 5-6. The theme for Science Works 2012 will be the connections between art and science. We invite participants to challenge their perspectives of these two disciplines and to consider the question of what role creativity and innovation play in both art and science. We are thrilled to have as our keynote speaker the host of the former Discovery Channel show “Time Warp,” Jeff Lieberman. The Science Works weekend will include activities and exhibits from our creative partners for the weekend, including Dan’s Camera City, Cedar Crest College, and the Baum School of Art.
Also in time for spring, the national Olympus BioScapes 2011 exhibition is now open for Center visitors. The winning entries of Olympus America’s digital imaging competition will be shown at the Center until Memorial Day weekend, and is included with paid admission or membership entry. The annual BioScapes contest recognizes the world’s finest microscopic still images and videos of human, plant, and animal subjects captured through light microscopes of any magnification and any brand. These amazing photographs celebrate the beauty of nature and offer a fascinating new perspective into the world of microscopic images.