Do the world’s ‘uncontacted’ tribes deserve to be left alone?

From the Washington Post: Do the world’s ‘uncontacted’ tribes deserve to be left alone?

For the first time, anthropologists working for the Peruvian government will attempt to make contact with members of a remote tribe living in the Amazon jungle. The move follows growing concerns about the behavior of the Mascho Piro people, which has included attacks and raids on neighboring communities.

South America, and in particular the vast Amazon region, is home to some of the world’s last remaining “uncontacted” tribes — indigenous communities that, for whatever reason, have managed to exist almost entirely outside the purview of the nation-states in which they technically live. Experts fear a whole slew of risks that may follow should these tribes come into full contact with the outside world, from exploitation by rapacious mining and logging companies to the devastating transfer of pathogens to which they have no immunity.

In recent decades, some governments have taken a protective stance, working to shield these communities from outside contact mostly because of the health risks involved. After all, some estimates suggest contact with outside diseases killed up to 100 million indigenous people following the European arrival in the Americas. [continue]

Did you follow the article’s link to That’s a fascinating site.

Leif Haugen, Fire Lookout

From Leif Haugen, Fire Lookout.

The old tent creaks and buckles under the force of the fierce wind blowing from the west as I sleep. The tall windows of the nearby fire lookout tower rattle and shake. The sun sets behind a distant peak, clouds roll in and the clear blue sky slowly turns to the burnt orange of dusk. It took the better part of a day’s travel to get to the top of this mountain.

The journey began at a small town on a gravel road. With only a general store, a handful of houses, a seasonal restaurant and a hostel, it is really more like an outpost than a town. Where the twisted gravel road stopped, a footpath began. The narrow path moved through a moss-encrusted forest riddled with downed trees and followed the drainage of a cold, clear alpine creek. Near the top, the trees separated on the ridge to reveal an expansive view of a long valley. Just beyond this spot was my destination, a tiny shack balanced on the brow of a mountain. This is the place where Leif Haugen has spent the past several summers. I’ve come to talk with Haugen and get a first-hand peek behind the often-romanticized veneer of what it means to be a fire lookout.

Haugen is a fire lookout with the U.S. Forest Service. During the summer months, his job is to maintain watch over the pristine wilderness that surrounds his remote post a few miles south of the Canadian border in northwest Montana. He’s from Minnesota and learned about the lookout life through literature, securing his first job as a lookout with the help of a friend in 1994. He’s been returning ever since. “It’s a great way to spend the summer,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of choices, but all of the choices are things I enjoy doing: walking, reading, writing, carpentry and taking a good long look around.” [continue]

The root cause of violence?

I followed a poorly labelled link yesterday, which took me to a Guardian article by Jon Ronson about some woman I’ve never heard of. This was the interesting tidbit Ronson included:

I once interviewed a prison psychiatrist, James Gilligan, who told me that every murderer he treated was harbouring a central secret – which was that they felt humiliated. “I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed or humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed,” he said. His conclusion: “All violence is an attempt to replace shame with self-esteem.”


India’s traditional ear de-waxing business is waning

From the LA Times: India’s traditional ear de-waxing business is waning.

Squatting on a low wooden stool, Sayed Mehboob adjusts his red turban, gently faded from countless hours in the afternoon sun. On this patch of sidewalk near the busy Grant Road train station in central Mumbai, modern India flies by in its customary hurry.

Young laborers with rough hands and precise haircuts set off on lunch break. Packs of students race to after-school tutoring sessions or home to play video games. Air-conditioned sedans pull over, their rear doors disgorging upper-class housewives from buttery leather seats.

Unfazed by the din, Mehboob, 45, slides a smaller stool toward a visitor and flashes an inviting smile.

“Would you like me to clean your ear?” he asks. [continue]

Inspired by 1970s Manitoba, Dutch city tests guaranteed income

From the CBC: Inspired by 1970s Manitoba, Dutch city tests guaranteed income.

As an experiment in the 1970s in Dauphin, Man., residents were provided a guaranteed minimum income, with no strings attached. Now Utrecht, in the Netherlands, is hoping a similar experiment will determine the best approach to help people struggling in that city.

The experiment will focus on people who are unemployed. One group will continue to collect benefits. A second group will receive benefits based on incentives and rewards. A third group will receive an unconditional basic income, meaning they’ll get paid even if they find new work — or if they make no effort to find a job. [continue]

I love this idea, and will be interested to hear if Utrecht goes ahead with it.

Is the fish kick the fastest stroke yet?

From Nautilus: Is the fish kick the fastest stroke yet?

I tug my black swim cap over my hair, strap on my pink goggles, and keep a focused calm, like Michael Phelps before a race. It’s lap swim on a Monday afternoon at my local YMCA, and I’m going to attempt the fish kick. Most fish move through the water with a horizontal wiggle. The fish kick challenges you to copy this movement: You completely submerge yourself underwater, position yourself on your side, keep your arms tight above your head in a streamline, and propel yourself forward with symmetrical undulations. After decades of swimming, some of it at the competitive level, I think I might have a shot. Pushing off the wall, and after what I can only describe as a struggle, the water resists my forward motion and I float to the surface, not unlike a dead fish.

Humans are land animals, and not natural swimmers. We have to learn how to swim, and it is up to us to find the fastest way to do so. The search may finally be coming to an end. In the last few decades, stroke mechanic experts have discovered that swimming under the surface is faster than swimming on the surface. “It’s hard to fathom that this could happen in track and field,” says Rick Madge, a swim coach and blogger. “Nobody is going to come up with a new way of running that is going to be faster than anything else. Yet we just did that in swimming.” And the fish kick may be the fastest subsurface form yet. [continue]

Are you off to the pool to try it out?

Letting stress win: a commencement speech

From Rotten in Denmark: Letting Stress Win: A Commencement Speech.

The best advice and the worst advice I’ve ever gotten were three words long.

The best advice was ‘avoid the treadmill’. It was 2003. I was coming to the end of a master’s degree in a subject (political philosophy) and a city (London) I was ready to leave. I was 22 years old. (…)

I had two months left until I completed my master’s and my visa expired. I had no idea what I was going to do, or even what I wanted to. There was the prudent thing, moving back to the States, getting a job, starting a career, buying a house, leasing a Camry, nothing wrong with that.

There was also, however, something I had come across two weeks earlier while drinking wine and Googling Nordic underwear models: Universities in Scandinavia are free.

I told Rebecca all this (minus the Googling), and that I had found a program in Aarhus, Denmark—a master’s degree that as soon as I said it out loud I realized sounded even vaguer and more destitution-promoting than the master’s I already had.

‘European studies!’ I said.

Rebecca asked if I had ever been to Denmark, and what was my logic for considering this an option. I admitted I had none, it just sounded cool and I wanted to try it.

‘So I have to decide,’ I said. ‘Prudent, or Denmark.’

‘Mike,’ she said. ‘This is an easy one: Avoid the treadmill.’ [continue]

No One Dies Alone

From Meet the Volunteers Who Comfort the Dying When No One Else Can.

In 2001, a dying man in a hospital asked his nurse, Sandra Clarke, to stay by his side as he passed away. He was alone with no family or friends to comfort him. She agreed, but first had to make her rounds. When she returned, the man had passed away. He died alone, but his passing changed the lives of countless people he’d never meet. Frustrated and angry that no one was able to stay with the dying man, Clarke resolved to create a group of volunteers to stay with patients who were alone and close to death. [continue]

On grit

Now this is from EMCrit, a blog about emergency medicine. But the article is excellent and of interest to all, including those who have nothing whatever to do with the medical world. It’s about grit. I’m tempted to quote great big hunks of it, but will settle for this:

Looking back at my first year of basic clinical science education, I can attest that grit seems to be important to succeed. I have watched as some very intelligent students, with elite academic pedigrees have failed. In so doing, I find it interesting how their first instinct is usually to blame the professor, the class material, or the test format. Their very image of themselves seems to have been shaken to the core and they continue to struggle. Yet there are others, many of whom do not have the same glowing list of scholarly accolades, that fail and see it as a challenge. They accept their shortcomings, acknowledge their mistakes, and work tirelessly to improve on the next exam. I sincerely admire this latter group. They demonstrate serious grit. [continue]

The article is thought-provoking. I was interested to read the bit about how the people who hire for Google have concluded that… well, you go read it and see what they’ve concluded.

Potholes that tweet about themselves

From CNET we have news of potholes in Panema that send tweets about themselves to the Ministry of Public Works.

It’s not unusual for an angry driver to let loose colorful invective upon driving over a pothole. But in Panama City, the potholes themselves are talking — and sharing their gripes on Twitter.

“I feel terrible. I just caused tire damage to an old lady’s car,” a pothole recently tweeted on the account El Hueco Twitero (The Tweeting Pothole), which has almost 3,000 followers. “At least tell me what I need and I’ll cover myself,” tweeted another.

The potholes had their say via a device placed inside them that contains pressure and motion sensors and an RF transmitter that triggers a tweet to the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) every time a car runs over the chasms. The details of the tweets seem to be selected randomly — these potholes aren’t just peeved, they’re creative. [continue]


The people at Grist have discovered the Solowheel, which is a battery powered wheel you can ride. No seat. They wrote about the Solowheel: Watch us (poorly) ride the Transportation of the Future. It looks easy enough, very fun, and practical for people who walk around in cities.

There’s a Solowheel store in Seattle and one in Vancouver. They’re also in Australia, and who knows where else.

Would you ride one?

A dining table for the neighbourhood

This landscape table looks like a fun thing to have in one’s neighbourhood.

The Landscape Table is a platform for cultivating, processing, cooking and sharing the food at the centre of the Parckdesign event. Thanks to the edible and medicinal plants inserted into the table itself, the installation invites the public to meet and eat in direct contact with a landscape that is a bounty for the senses – sight, smell, touch and, above all, taste. The essence of this project is to involve the visitor in the landscape, farming, nature and cooking through shared moments. [continue]

He left the city to go live in a treehouse

From the New York Times: Escape to Bro-topia.

People talk about chucking their jobs. They say they will leave behind the madness of the city and hit the road.

A few drinks and they’re telling you about the epic hiking trip in the Sierra Nevada they’ll take or how magical the surf is in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

But nobody ever does it. Nobody. Except for one guy.

His name is Foster Huntington, and he used to work in New York. He had a bright future in the fashion industry. But then he cut the cord. And do you know where he lives now? In a treehouse. [continue]

Amazing photos. Yeah, that looks like a very fun life.

GiveDirectly gives poor people a year’s income, no strings attached

From the Huffington Post: This Startup Gives Poor People A Year’s Income, No Strings Attached.

A person whom Teresa had never met showed up at her home one day with a remarkable offer. Teresa and her family would receive what amounted to a year’s income, in cash. Nothing was owed in return. She did not have to repay the money, and her family could spend it however they wished.

Teresa was at a loss. “We did not believe someone would give us that kind of money without having worked for it.” But then the money came.

This scenario has played out thousands of times. The organization behind the money, GiveDirectly, is not broadly known. (…)

Yet, dollar-for-dollar, analysts say GiveDirectly is among the most effective organizations in the world trying to eliminate extreme poverty. (…) And in the spirit of Silicon Valley, GiveDirectly’s work is data-driven and transparent in ways that are virtually unheard of in the aid world. For donors who want their giving based on evidence-backed results, few organizations compare. [continue]

Wow. I like the assumption that must be behind this model: poor people aren’t stupid, they’re just poor. So maybe they need money more than they need to be babysat by a social services agency. Just maybe.

A self-healing building?

From Grist: Ever heard of a self-healing building? Just wait.

Some potentially good news for green architecture: Dutch scientists have designed a new type of concrete — and it sounds like something straight outta science fiction.

Henk Jonkers, a researcher at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, helped formulate a bio-concrete, a building material that seals architectural cracks with limestone-producing bacteria. [continue]

Barbed wire

From Marian Bantjes’ blog: Barbed Wire.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting around with friends discussing patents, as one does, and my friend Ken started talking about the patents of barbed wire, and how there are many different kinds, with different barb twists or different ways of entwining the wire to create separate patents. Then he said, “Would you like to see my barbed wire collection?”

Barbed wire collection!! Boy, would I! YES. So he went away and came back wtih a box full of… well, look! [continue]

Many photos follow, and you’ll want to see them.

A ban on mermaid tails

So apparently mermaid tails are a thing now. Who knew? From the CBC: Mermaid tail enthusiasts cry foul over Edmonton pool bans.

Krista Visinski is determined to be a mermaid, even if she’s not allowed in the water right now.

The Edmonton mother has been preparing for more than a year to become a professional sea nymph and teach exercise classes, host children’s parties and appear at public events.

But her plan was recently put on hold when the city announced a ban on mermaid tails, a trendy swim accessory, in all its pools.

The 24-year-old delivered a petition to the city this week with nearly 600 names, some of them parents of children who dream of swimming like Ariel from the Disney movie The Little Mermaid.

Others, calling themselves mermaid advocates, say anyone should be able to swim with a tail. [continue]

Smart clothes for personalized cooling and heating

From the Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD: Engineers win grant to make smart clothes for personalized cooling and heating.

Imagine a fabric that will keep your body at a comfortable temperature—regardless of how hot or cold it actually is. That’s the goal of an engineering project at the University of California, San Diego, funded with a $2.6M grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). Wearing this smart fabric could potentially reduce heating and air conditioning bills for buildings and homes.

The project, named ATTACH (Adaptive Textiles Technology with Active Cooling and Heating), is led by Joseph Wang, distinguished professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego.

By regulating the temperature around an individual person, rather than a large room, the smart fabric could potentially cut the energy use of buildings and homes by at least 15 percent, Wang noted.

“In cases where there are only one or two people in a large room, it’s not cost-effective to heat or cool the entire room,” said Wang. “If you can do it locally, like you can in a car by heating just the car seat instead of the entire car, then you can save a lot of energy.” [continue]

Would you wear this kind of stuff? It would be awfully useful, but polymers doesn’t sound nearly as comforting (or comfortable) as organic cotton, say.

Sneaky billboard disappears in the presence of Russian authorities

This is fun, and there’s a video, too. From Sneaky billboard disappears in the presence of Russian authorities.

Ordinarily, advertisements are designed to capture the attention of as many people as humanly possible. In a particularly Yakov Smirnov-ian turn turn, however, one high-tech Russian billboard is bucking convention by actively removing itself from sight in the presence of anyone from that country’s police or military. [continue]

Minding the monster

From The Walrus: Minding the Monster.

You can understand the mindset of a vigilante. Child molestation is the sort of crime held up as the purest distillation of human evil; vengeance feels like the only response. Pedophiles should pay for their crimes. They should be condemned, branded, driven out of our communities and away from our kids. But when someone takes the opposite approach, you pause. Although Haley had no way of knowing it, that morning, he set in motion a chain of events that would lead to the creation of one of the most successful reintegration programs in Canadian history: Circles of Support and Accountability. [continue]

Do you have a support group like Circles of Support and Accountability in your community? It seems like a brilliant, and caring, scheme – the kind of thing we need more of.

Fake jobs

From the New York Times: In Europe, Fake Jobs Can Have Real Benefits.

At 9:30 a.m. on a sunny weekday, the phones at Candelia, a purveyor of sleek office furniture in Lille, France, rang steadily with orders from customers across the country and from Switzerland and Germany. A photocopier clacked rhythmically while more than a dozen workers processed sales, dealt with suppliers and arranged for desks and chairs to be shipped.

Sabine de Buyzer, working in the accounting department, leaned into her computer and scanned a row of numbers. Candelia was doing well. Its revenue that week was outpacing expenses, even counting taxes and salaries. “We have to be profitable,” Ms. de Buyzer said. “Everyone’s working all out to make sure we succeed.”

This was a sentiment any boss would like to hear, but in this case the entire business is fake. So are Candelia’s customers and suppliers, from the companies ordering the furniture to the trucking operators that make deliveries. Even the bank where Candelia gets its loans is not real. [continue]

Rather mind-boggling, isn’t it?

New device stops jetlag

From New device stops jetlag.

From the land of ice and snow comes a new device that harnesses the sun’s positive rays to combat the infamous symptoms of transcontinental jet lag. Finnish startup Valkee, known for its products targeting seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which affects over 9.5% percent of Finland’s population, recently launched a new device called the Human Charger that just might revolutionize travel. A bright light-emitting headset run via app, the Human Charger is able to “coordinate” environmental and situational factors between pre-and-post-travel routines, and, according to the Aerospace Medical Association, significantly improve a traveler’s jet lag. [continue]

That sounds promising. But now I have the Immigrant Song stuck in my head.

This is why you shouldn’t believe that exciting new medical study

This Vox article is awesome: This is why you shouldn’t believe that exciting new medical study.

We don’t wait for scientific consensus; we report a little too early, and we lead patients and policymakers down wasteful, harmful, or redundant paths that end in dashed hope and failed medicine.

This tendency could be minimized if we could only remember that the overwhelming majority of studies in medicine fail. [continue]