5 Intriguing Things: Monday, 11/25

Brain stimulation, being buried alive, quantified workers, sliceable applesauce, and the death of every living thing on Earth.
Sure, the sun looks friendly now (NASA).


1. It's Monday, so let's consider what it will look like when our planet, like every other planet harboring life, eventually dies. 

"The death of Earth's biosphere as it exists today would start with plants dying off. Rising temperatures cause silicon-loaded rocks known as silicates to wear away, increasing their absorption of carbon dioxide. The resulting drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which plants need in order to generate energy from sunlight, would eventually bring an end to the age of plants. 

The extinction of plants would both curtail atmospheric oxygen levels and remove the primary source of food from most ecosystems, leading to the simultaneous extinction of animals, from large vertebrates to smaller ones, with invertebrates having the longest stay of execution. All in all, the researchers calculated Earth's surface would become largely uninhabitable between 1.2 billion and 1.85 billion years from the present."


2. Do-It-Yourself Brain Stimulation: Time for a Policy.

"Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a simple means of brain stimulation, possesses a trifecta of appealing features: it is relatively safe, relatively inexpensive and relatively effective. It is also relatively easy to obtain a device and the do-it-yourself (DIY) community has become galvanised by reports that tDCS can be used as an all-purpose cognitive enhancer. We provide practical recommendations designed to guide balanced discourse, propagate norms of safe use and stimulate dialogue between the DIY community and regulatory authorities."


3. The quantified self movement and the power relationships of modern work are a dangerous combination.

"On the one hand, I can see how it can function as a quasi-emancipatory technology which augments the human capacity for reflexivity, potentially freeing the individual from the blind force of (socially inculcated) habit. On the other hand, I can just as easily see how this expansion of portable technology for quantification can, particularly when coupled with amenable patterns of affective response from the ‘users’, constitute a potentially terrifying expansion of disciplinary control within the workplace."


4. A patent applicant demonstrates the strange logic of the blindered inventor

"Apple in conventional appleasuce form has had such long acceptance as such as entree serving that persons are oblivious to its shortcomings, namely, that unlike jellied cranberry sauce, applesauce cannot be served in the form of slices or other self-sustaining shapes cut from a can molded unit.

It is a primary object of this invention to provide an apple product that can be handled for serving more nearly like jellied cranberry sauce in that it will have not only a solid form but also a different texture and mouth feel than applesauce, making it acceptable as a salad ingredient, for example."

Sliceable applesauce: FINALLY.


5. One way in which life has improved a lot with technology.

"Studies from nineteenth century doctors and alienists, and anecdotes from gravediggers and funeral home operators suggest that somewhere between 2 and 10 percent of dead bodies back then weren't actually dead."


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Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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