“Religious” folk ain’t the majority in the GOUSA anymore …


No waiting in line

The secularization of U.S. society — the waning of religious faith, practice and affiliation — is continuing at a dramatic and historically unprecedented pace. While many may consider such a development as cause for concern, such a worry is not warranted. This increasing godlessness in America is actually a good thing, to be welcomed and embraced.

Democratic societies that have experienced the greatest degrees of secularization are among the healthiest, wealthiest and safest in the world, enjoying relatively low rates of violent crime and high degrees of well-being and happiness. Clearly, a rapid loss of religion does not result in societal ruin …

Organic secularization can occur for many reasons. It happens when members of a society become better educated, more prosperous, and live safer, more secure and more peaceful lives; when societies experience increases in social isolation; when people have better healthcare; when more women hold paying jobs; when more people wait longer to get married and have kids. All of these, especially in combination, can decrease religiosity.

Another major factor is the ubiquity of the internet, which provides open windows to alternative worldviews and different cultures that can corrode religious conviction — and allows budding skeptics and nascent freethinkers to find, support and encourage one another.

Overdue! I had read sufficient science to be an atheist by the time I was 13. Added studies in philosophy to properly associate my understanding with philosophical materialism … by 18.

Never had to look back and change that comprehension, understanding.

Eat processed meat daily – increase your risk of dementia!


Man, I love bacon – I eat it about 8 times a year!

Scientists from the University of Leeds’s Nutritional Epidemiology Group used data from 500,000 people, discovering that consuming a 25g serving of processed meat a day, the equivalent to one rasher of bacon, is associated with a 44% increased risk of developing dementia.

But their findings also show eating some unprocessed red meat, such as beef, pork, or veal, could be protective, as people who consumed 50g a day were 19% less likely to develop dementia.

The researchers were exploring a potential link between consumption of meat and the development of dementia, a health condition that affects 5%-8% of over 60s worldwide.

Their results, titled “Meat consumption and risk of incident dementia: cohort study of 493888 UK Biobank participants,” are published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

RTFA. Learn something new. Switch on your little gray cells…and respond consciously, thoughtfully, to live your life a bit healthier.

Volcano in Iceland returns to life


Vilhelm Gunnarsson/Getty

After a series of earthquakes in Iceland, the long-dormant volcano Fagradalsfjall erupted on Friday night. The volcano is located nearly 40 miles outside of Reykjavik, the nearest city and the country’s capital, and didn’t threaten any lives or infrastructure damage.

Images of the eruption immediately flooded social media as Iceland residents saw lava and ash from the volcano light up the sky.

The country’s Minister of Justice, Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, took a trip to the volcano as the eruption began to monitor the situation. Sigurbjörnsdóttir posted photos and a live video from the helicopter showing lava oozing down from the eruption.

RTFA. Lots more photos and video. I love Iceland. Haven’t been there in years…and always loved every hour in that beautiful land.

Tesla is building a secret battery in Texas. A VERY BIG battery!


Mark Felix/Bloomberg

Tesla is best known as an electric car company, but the firm also has a thriving business in battery storage—including utility-scale battery installations to support the electric grid. Bloomberg reports that Tesla is currently building a battery installation in Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s new home state of Texas. The project is in Angleton, about an hour south of Houston.

Tesla hasn’t publicized the project, which is operating under the name of an obscure Tesla subsidiary called Gambit Energy Storage LLC. When a Bloomberg photographer visited, a worker discouraged picture-taking and said the project was “secretive.” The project appears to consist of 20 large banks of batteries that have been covered by white sheets…

The installation will use lithium iron phosphate batteries that are expected to last 10 to 20 years. The document says that it will generate around $1 million in property tax revenue for the city of Angleton. The site will be unmanned but will be remotely monitored at all times, according to the document…

Cripes, you could produce a different documentary film, every week, on all the off-the-wall – but useful – projects Elon Musk is working on. Might do our boffins in Washington some good to take lessons.

The code breaker

According to Walter Isaacson, three great technology revolutions have shaped the modern world, based on three fundamental kernels of human existence: the atom, the bit, and the gene. Having explored the physics revolution through the eyes of Einstein, and the digital revolution via Apple’s supreme leader, Steve Jobs, the best-selling biographer thought it was time to turn to DNA. It’s no surprise then, that he chose Jennifer Doudna, the co-discoverer of the Crispr gene-editing technology, to carry the tale of how the human species seized control of its own evolutionary destiny.

Isaacson’s latest book, The Code Breaker, breathlessly follows Doudna from a childhood spent trekking through the wilds of Hawaii to her pioneering work harnessing a bacterial defense system to rewrite the code of life—and the bitter patent battle that ensued—and ultimately winning the ultimate credit, the Nobel Prize. Based on more than five years of reporting from the front lines of the DNA-hacking wars, the book is an immersive deep dive into the fascinating science of gene editing and the personal dramas playing out behind the discoveries. Even if you think you know the story of Crispr, you don’t know it the way Isaacson does.

Science geek or not, Isaacson is a stellar writer. The topic just makes this all a richer intellectual experience.

Deepfakes can be Deep Nostaligia


My Heritage

The Deep Nostalgia service, offered by online genealogy company MyHeritage, uses AI licensed from D-ID to create the effect that a still photo is moving. It’s kinda like the iOS Live Photos feature, which adds a few seconds of video to help smartphone photographers find the best shot.

But Deep Nostalgia can take photos from any camera and bring them to “life.” The program uses pre-recorded driver videos of facial movements and applies the one that works best for the still photo in question. Its intended purpose is to allow you to upload photos of deceased loved ones and see them in “action,” which seems like a lovely idea.

…You can upload five photos for free to the MyHeritage website for Deep Nostalgia treatment, after that you have to register for a paid account.

As I’ve already mentioned, nostalgia, creative work, fun or serious, all have a use for this sort of deepfake software. Be ready for the loonies!

Facebook blocked news pages as a negotiating tactic in Australia

Facebook may wait up to a week before unblocking some of the pages of hundreds of non-media organisations caught up in its news ban, while anti-vaccination content and misinformation continues to run rampant on the social media platform.

Content designated as news was blocked on Facebook in Australia on Thursday morning in response to the federal government’s news media code, which would require the tech giant to negotiate with news publishers for payment for content…

Tim Hanslow, head of social at Preface Social Media and who also helps run the Australian Community Managers group on Facebook, told Guardian Australia he had heard from a couple of community managers who had been contacted by their Facebook representatives and were told an appeals process would be put in place for people to plead their case…

“An appeals process for the ban will launch on Feb 25 and you can request your page be assessed as outside the news ban. All of the government pages/sites caught up in this should be reinstated.”

So, just wait around for a spell and Facebook will decide who is banned, who isn’t…and apparently what is news.