She plays o' the viol-de-gamboys, speaks three or four languages word for word without book, hath all the good gifts of nature, knows a hawk from a handsaw, and can see a church by daylight. The rest is subject to fancy.

Scientists Discover Brain’s Moral Compass . . . and It Responds to Magnets

In a study led by Dr. Liane Young of MIT, researchers have discovered that the moral compass lies in the right temporo-parietal junction of the human brain, near the surface and just behind the right ear. This region becomes excited and actively engaged when we think about other people’s errors or good deeds. Researchers using transcranial magnetic stimulation were able to disrupt the function of the area and temporarily encourage people to be “less moral.” You can read the details here.

“The Rage Is Not About Health Care”: Teabaggers and Racism

In Frank Rich’s New York Times op-ed “The Rage Is Not About Health Care ” he notes:

The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.

Rich’s analysis is spot-on, and chilling. Read the whole thing.

Byron and Shelley Excoriated from the Grave

Author Daisy Hay while

Claire Clairmont by Aemilia Curran, 1819

researching her book Young Romantics, about the Shelleys, Byron and their “tangled lives” found a fragment of a memoir by Claire Clairmont (1798-1879), Mary Shelley’s young, head-strong step-sister. Clairmont, perhaps most famous for describing Byron as “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know” was in her teens when Byron got her pregnant and then dumped her. Dr. Hay is including the fragment, written by Clairmont when she was in her seventies and looking back at her pursuit of Byron, and her journeys with the Shelleys. Clairmont says of her time with the two poets that “Under the influence of the doctrine and belief of free love, I saw the two first poets of England… become monsters.” You can read more here.

We Are All African

We are all Africans. We originated in Africa. That is proved by the continent’s rich genetic inheritance. Africans are more diverse than the rest of humanity put together, because they are drawn from the pool of humans who did not leave. As Wells points out, two Africans from the same village could be more divergent from each other than either is from a non-African. The question is whether this new understanding will reinforce prejudices against Africans, or help end them.

The story of humanity, written in the spiral pages of our DNA, from More Intelligent Life.

Knowledge and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Digital Cuneiform

Language Hat‘s post about the utterly nifty Knowledge and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire site, a site about

From the Central Palace in Nimrud and now in the British Museum, London. Circa 728 BC.

From Nimrud, circa 728 BCE

the Neo-Assyrian capital of Nineveh PGP in what today is northern Iraq, from the middle of the seventh century BCE. Nineveh and the royal court there is the earliest attested site of courtly scientific patronage in world history. The Website presents contemporary documents from the seventh century BCE that include letters, reports, and queries from scholars, along with pedagogical resources. In addition, the site includes court poetry, royal prophecies, memos, and letters from temple staff to the king. This is a very well-done site, aesthetically appealing, and easy to navigate, with pointers to other resources, on and off line. I favor Essentials as a good starting place. The Cuneiform Revealed section covers writing systems as well as language, and makes me think about the UCLA/Max Planck project, The Cuneiform Digital Library.

Pornography, Women, and Honesty

Stacia Kane in a thoughtful post about the book Porn for Women from the “Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative,” asks:

Isn’t it time we move past this shit? Past the idea that what women really want is hugs’n’chocolate, because sex is just something we do for him? Past the idea that men only do nice things in order to get sex? Can’t we agree now that women are adults, and diverse, and so are men, and that to put out a book this simple-minded and ridiculous and call it “porn for women” is shameful, and sexist, and just plain not fucking funny?

You can read the whole post here, and you really should, and no, it’s not about “that kind” of porn, though it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that pornography, or pornos graphos originally referred to the graphos, the writing (and images) used by prostitutes to establish their services and prices for customers.

Gollum: Schizophrenia or Multiple Personality Disorder?

…Gollum displays pervasive maladaptive behaviour that has been present since childhood with a persistent disease course. His odd interests and spiteful behaviour have led to difficulty in forming friendships and have caused distress to others. He fulfils seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder (ICD F60.1), and, if we must label Gollum’s problems, we believe that this is the most likely diagnosis.

More here and here.

Sucking the Quileute Dry

To millions of “Twilight” fans, the Quileute are Indians whose (fictional) ancient treaty transforms young males of the tribe into vampire-fighting wolves. To the nearly 700 remaining Quileute Indians, “Twilight” is the reason they are suddenly drawing extraordinary attention from the outside—while they themselves remain largely excluded from the vampire series’ vast commercial empire.

Op Ed piece from the New York Times.