What’s the Point of Civilization?

History is filled with tragedies and triumphs long forgotten. What’s the point of civilization and fighting for justice if it’s always going to be the same?

Watch animation video inspired by Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice

Extract from Ancillary Justice from Anne Leckie

“But what’s the point?  I mean, I understand why we‘re going back to Athoek.  That makes sense to me.  But farther ahead than that…  At first this all just seemed unreal, and it still does in a way.  But the Lord of the Radch is coming apart.  And if she comes apart, so does the Radch.  I mean, maybe she’ll hold herself together, maybe she pull these pieces back together again.  But, begging your forgiveness, sir, for my speaking very frankly, but you don’t actually want that, do you.”

“I don’t,” I admitted.

“And so what’s the point, sir?  What’s the point of talking about training and promotions as though it’s all going to just go on like it always has?”

“What’s the point of anything?”

“Sir?” She blinked, confused.  Taken aback.

animation of meteorite destroying dinosaurs
The tragedy of dinosaurs extermination

“In a thousand years, Lieutenant, nothing you care about will matter.  Not even to you—you’ll be dead.  So will I, and no one alive will care. Maybe—just maybe—someone will remember our names.  More likely those names will be engraved on some dusty memorial pin at the bottom of an old box no one ever opens.”  Or Ekalu’s would.  There was no reason anyone would make any memorials to me, after my death.  “And that thousand years will come, and another and another, to the end of the universe.  Think of all the griefs and tragedies, and yes, the triumphs, buried in the past, millions of years of it.  Everything for the people who lived them.  Nothing now.”

Ekalu swallowed.  “I’ll have to remember, sir, if I’m ever feeling down, that you know how to cheer me right up.”

What’s the point of civilization? There is no point. Choose your own

I smiled.  “The point is, there is no point.  Choose your own.”

Choose your own point of civilization
Choose your own point

“We don’t usually get to choose our own, do we?” she asked.  “You do, I suppose, but you’re a special case.  And everyone on this ship, we’re just going along with yours.”  She looked down at her plate, considered, briefly, picking up a utensil, but I saw that she couldn’t actually eat just now.

I said, “It doesn’t have to be a big point.  As you say, often it can’t be.  Sometimes it’s nothing more than I have to find a way to put one foot in front of the other, or I’ll die here.  If we lose this throw, if we lose our lives in the near future, then yes, training and promotions will have been pointless.  But who knows?  Perhaps the omens will favor us.  And if, ultimately, I have what I want, Athoek will need protection.  I will need good officers.”

“And what are the chances of the omens favoring us, sir, if I may ask? […]”

“When you’re doing something like this,” I said, “the odds are irrelevant.  You don’t need to know the odds.  You need to know how to do the thing you’re trying to do.  And then you need to do it.  What comes next”—I gestured, the tossing of a handful of omens—“isn’t something you have any control over.”

You can read more on Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie here. Yes, science fiction can help to understand better what’s the point of civilization…

Soundtrack for ‘What’s the Point of Civilization’?

The tensed bass line was influenced by Tchaikovsky' Symphony No 5 and its drone-like sections, while the violins and piano were inspired by Glinka and Rachmaninoff

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True Story of a Murder Solved by a Mosquito

Watch one of the best true crime stories ever, leading SpareTag.com to reflect on ethical use of DNA evidence from CSI forensics to mosquito eradication

Watch the true murder story solved by a mosquito

True crime story better than CSI TV shows

The video was inspired by a true story reported in the minutes of the International Society for Forensics Genetics assembly held in 2006.  This true story took place in Sicily after the discovery of the corpse of a transsexual prostitute near a beach. The main suspect was a business man living in a faraway neighborhood. The day of the murder, his car had been seen near the beach. 

(SPOILERS:) From the blood of one dead mosquito at the home of the business man, the forensic police was able to identify the DNA of the victim.  Moreover, investigators were able to verify that the mosquito specie would not have been able to fly the distance from the beach to the suspect house on its own. Hence, the presence of the dead mosquito was an irrefutable proof of the connection between the suspect and the victim.  Combined with sand and other vegetal fragments from the beach also discovered at its home, the jury found the business man guilty of murder.

Top 5 frequently asked question about mosquito

This is a true but unusual story, as mosquitoes are more likely to be the active murderer than the passive witness.  In effect, approximately 725 000 people die each year from disease carried by mosquitoes, such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, west nile virus and other chikungunya.  Accordingly, mosquitoes are far more efficient killers compared to sharks (only 10 human kills in 2013) or wolves (average of 7 mortal attacks per year) that nonetheless receive more airtime.

cartoon of a mosquito biting a peaceful sleeper
Take a lesson from the mosquito. She never waits for an opening — she makes one. Kirk Kirkpatrick

Fortunately, not all mosquito bites bring death, otherwise humanity would not have evolved this far. Indeed, the relationship is quite long. The oldest mosquito specimen we found was caught in amber some 80 million years ago in Canada.  This conflicted, but well understood, relationship continues to drive us crazy every day.

1. Why do Mosquitos bite?

Only the female mosquito bites. She needs the proteins from the blood to lay her eggs, while male mosquitoes feed on nectar harvested from flowers.  Although, not all female mosquitoes are attracted to humans.  Of the 3,500 species, only a couple hundred feast on human blood as the rest lives in forests and sustains on animal blood.

2. Why are some people more prone to mosquito bites than others?

Well, it seems like not all blood proteins are equal.  Mosquitoes read the blood type from chemical signals secreted by 85% of the people on their skin.  The prudent 15% not sharing blood information are more likely to be ignored.  But for the rest of us, Type O blood is targeted twice as often as those with Type A. Type B blood is somewhere in the middle.  

3. Why do Mosquitos buzz in our ears? 

Mosquitoes detect their prey from exhaled carbon dioxide up to 100 feet away.  Since human breath through their nose and mouth, mosquitoes are attracted to our heads.  By the way, tall or obese people who exhale more CO2 gas are more prone to getting attacked than children or underweight people.

Burial of a person killed by a mosquito bite
Mosquito, the greatest mass murderer on planet Earth

4. Why do we itch after being bitten?

When a female mosquito inserts her mouth trump, called proboscis, into the victim’s skin, she injects some saliva.  The saliva serves as an anticoagulant to keep the blood liquid and drinkable. In most of us, the foreign fluid triggers a natural immune response which results in the production of histamines.  The following chemical reaction results in the dreaded itch.  Diseases, such as malaria, are transmitted to human through the saliva injected by the contaminated mosquito.

5. Why can’t we eradicate mosquito once and for all?

Hmm, that’s the ultimate ethical question arising every time humans try to play gods.  A British biotech firm has patented a method of breeding genetically-modified male mosquitoes. The GMOs are then released in the wild in large quantities. After mating with wild females, their offspring larvae die before being able to fly or bite, reducing quickly the population. While appealing to fight dangerous disease, some scientists are worried about the unknown effects on the ecosystem. the eradication of mosquitoes could induce a dramatic change in the food chain for many species including spiders, salamanders, frogs, fish and birds.  Others are concerned about uncontrolled natural mutation of such genetically modified organisms into a more fearful transmitter of disease.

Slapping conclusion to our mosquito true story

Voila! We went full circle from the DNA science helping to solve the murder of a single man to the DNA science helping to mass murder entire species. Will we be able to make the best use of this technology for the greater good?  Well, to echo the punch line of the video:

“Before swatting your next mosquito, be sure you have a clear conscience”

Soundtrack for our crime solver mosquito

Soundtrack mixing steel pan music and film noir ambiance

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What Conspiracy? Aliens are among us!

Half of Americans believe in conspiracy theories. Yes, you are likely to enjoy our ultimate conspiracy videos built on alien evidence and common fallacies

America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy –J. Updike

Half of Americans Believe at Least 1 Conspiracy Theory

On April 9, 2014 the Pacific Standard reported the results of a behavioral study. Two researchers of the University of Chicago, Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood created fake conspiracies to measure how prone Americans are to support such theories. 

The results are quite impressive:

Overall, “almost the entire sample said they had heard of at least one of the conspiratorial narratives they were asked about.” Also, the researchers found that over 55 percent agreed with at least one of them.

  • All in all 19 percent of Americans expressed the belief that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job. Another 22% decided to remain neutral, unwilling to either endorse or refute the theory.
  • Likewise 24 percent agreed that President Obama was not born in the United States, with 24% neutral. Hmm, this one seems to fit the political partisanship!. 
  • Furthermore 17 percent recognized the fake theory itself and 10% of the respondents believed it! 

Do you feel in control of Good and Evil?

The researchers explain the results by two psychological predispositions. First, the need to feel in control pushes us to draw conclusions in spite of weak evidence.  I wonder if our new awareness of this shortcoming can reduce our gullibility – hmm, probably not!  Second, the conspiracy theories feed our natural attraction towards the universal struggles between good and evil.  The Force be with you!

conspiracy about the AIDS virus
Conspiracy theory about aliens spreading AIDS virus on planet Earth

So of course I jumped on the researchers’ idea and created my own completely fictional Alien driven conspiracy theory. I didn’t have to look too far.  Just type “top 10 conspiracy” in Google or YouTube search engines and you will be amazed by the weird stuff you can find!  Crazy world, crazy people!

The MAKING-Of the Ultimate Conspiracy. It all makes sense now!

  1. Alien base exists on the dark side of the moon
  2. Their landing base on earth is located in the Bermuda triangle
  3. Alien faked a crash landing at Roswell to infiltrate Army and gain progressive control of US government
  4. Also, they assassinated JFK to stop the moon exploration program and keep their moon base secret
  5. Hence, the moon landing video was an hoax
  6. Because it was going too far, some aliens joined the resistance. Like Princess Diana who was killed just before revealing Alien control of:
    • Internet network to control opinion through social media and promote electronic banking to harvest gold held in central banks
    • terrorist group (9/11) to justify society control by army and police forces
    • Big Pharma to test new disease (AIDS) and prevent new cure
    • Global warming engineered by the aliens will make earth hospitable to a full scale invasion

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