Design · Education

Graphic: Sarin Chemical Warfare Nerve Agent

Sarin, allegedly used by the Syrian regime to kill more than 1,400 people on Aug. 21, is one of the most toxic and rapidly acting nerve agents. Developed in 1938 by Germany as a pesticide, sarin is, in its pure form, a clear, colourless, tasteless liquid that has no odour. Even at low concentrations, sarin can be fatal within one minute and those who survive will have permanent neurological damage.

Text and Image via National Post

Technology · Videos

Beautifully Deadly, Self-Guided Bullets

A tiny light-emitting diode, or LED, attached to a self-guided bullet at Sandia National Laboratories shows a bright path during a nighttime field test that proved the battery and electronics could survive the bullet’s launch.

Researchers have had initial success testing the design in computer simulations and in field tests of prototypes, built from commercially available parts, Jones said.

While engineering issues remain, “we’re confident in our science base and we’re confident the engineering-technology base is there to solve the problems,” he said.

Sandia’s design for the four-inch-long bullet includes an optical sensor in the nose to detect a laser beam on a target. The sensor sends information to guidance and control electronics that use an algorithm in an eight-bit central processing unit to command electromagnetic actuators. These actuators steer tiny fins that guide the bullet to the target.

Excerpt of a press release by Sandia

Bio · Human-ities · Science · Theory

Nature, nurture and liberal values

Human beings are diverse and live in diverse ways. Should we accept that we are diverse by nature, having followed separate evolutionary paths? Or should we suppose that we share our biological inheritance, but develop differently according to environment and culture? Over recent years scientific research has reshaped this familiar “nature-nurture” debate, which remains central to our understanding of human nature and morality.

For much of the 20th century social scientists held that human life is a single biological phenomenon, which flows through the channels made by culture, so as to acquire separate and often mutually inaccessible forms. Each society passes on the culture that defines it, much as it passes on its language. And the most important aspects of culture—religion, rites of passage and law—both unify the people who adhere to them and divide those people from everyone else. Such was implied by what John Tooby and Leda Cosmides called the “standard social science model,” made fundamental to anthropology by Franz Boas and to sociology by Émile Durkheim.

More recently evolutionary psychologists have begun to question that approach. Although you can explain the culture of a tribe as an inherited possession, they suggested, this does not explain how culture came to be in the first place. What is it that endows culture with its stability and function? In response to that question the opinion began to grow that culture does not provide the ultimate explanation of any significant human trait, not even the trait of cultural diversity. It is not simply that there are extraordinary constants among cultures: gender roles, incest taboos, festivals, warfare, religious beliefs, moral scruples, aesthetic interests. Culture is also a part of human nature: it is our way of being. We do not live in herds or packs; our hierarchies are not based merely on strength or sexual dominance. We relate to one another through language, morality and law; we sing, dance and worship together, and spend as much time in festivals and storytelling as in seeking our food. Our hierarchies involve offices, responsibilities, gift-giving and ceremonial recognition. Our meals are shared, and food for us is not merely nourishment but an occasion for hospitality, affection and dressing up. All these things are comprehended in the idea of culture—and culture, so understood, is observed in all and only human communities. Why is this?

Excerpt of an essay by Roger Scruton at Prospect. Continue HERE