The healing effects of taking in nature

How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies – Adam Alter – The Atlantic:

Nature restores mental functioning in the same way that food and water restore bodies. The business of everyday life — dodging traffic, making decisions and judgment calls, interacting with strangers — is depleting, and what man-made environments take away from us, nature gives back. There’s something mystical and, you might say, unscientific about this claim, but its heart actually rests in what psychologists call attention restoration theory, or ART.

This is why I love Berkeley’s campus. Everywhere you go there are trees and fields of grass and animals going about their business. I think I’m going to do more of my reading outside from now on.

Russell Brand on Drug Addiction

Russell Brand drug addiction

Russell Brand eschewed his traditionally humourous approach to sending a message in a very personal blog post detailing his struggles as a recovering addict.

The post is honest, that’s for sure, and it’s in your face about it.

In it Russell makes the case that it’s time we treat drug addicts as health patients rather than criminals.

“[T]he mentality and behaviour of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and, unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”

For those of you out there who do not struggle with drugs (and I include alcohol under this label), the article offers compelling insights into the mindset of one who will stop at no costs to get their fix.

“The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday…

I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain. It transforms a tight white fist into a gentle brown wave, and from my first inhalation 15 years ago it fumigated my private hell”

Possibly the most insightful nugget was revealed while Russell explained his reactions to watching his past self smoke heroin on a video tape.

“ When I saw the tape a month or so ago, what was surprising was that my reaction was not one of gratitude for the positive changes I’ve experienced. Instead I felt envious of this earlier version of myself, unencumbered by the burden of abstinence. I sat in a suite at the Savoy hotel, in privilege, resenting the woeful ratbag I once was who, for all his problems, had drugs.“

You can read the full post over at The Guardian or you can catch Russell Brand talk about his recovery in his BBC 3 documentary, Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery.

Do the Chinese want to create a generation of geniuses?

chinese education

Chinese genetic researching firm, BGI (previously known as Beijing Genomics Institute) has been compiling the DNA of 2,000 of the world’s brightest individuals.

Vice reporter, Aleks Eror, recently had a chance to speak with NYU professor and evolutionary psychologist, Geoffrey Miller, about his experiences with the project.

What is BGI looking for with their microscopic library of genius genes? They plan to sequence them and identify genetic markers for intelligence.

Intelligence is an abstract trait, which makes this a monumental challenge.

Once they can identify the genetic markers, they can move on to ensuring soon-to-be parents have the most intelligent child they can out of their genetic possibilities.

Miller explains:

“Once you’ve got that information and a fertilized egg that’s divided into a few cells, you can sample one of the cells to figure out the expected intelligence if it’s implanted and becomes a person.”

And for those of us who have forgotten all our biology:

“Any given couple could potentially have several eggs fertilized in the lab with the dad’s sperm and the mom’s eggs.

Then you can test multiple embryos and analyze which one’s going to be the smartest. That kid would belong to that couple as if they had it naturally, but it would be the smartest a couple would be able to produce if they had 100 kids. It’s not genetic engineering or adding new genes, it’s the genes that couples already have.”

This is certainly a possible way for China to jump into–what it feels is–it’s rightful place in the global pecking order, though it could also go wrong as well. Time will tell though, because if you had any doubts about their desire to move forward, BGI just acquired Complete Genomics, a firm which possesses cutting edge human genome sequencing technology.


The Berkeley Student District Campaign

When Berkeley Redistricting Charter Amendment, Measure R, passed in November 2012 with 66% of the city’s vote, Berkeley was finally able to eliminate the 1986 district lines and redraw council districts to reflect updated populations. On Wednesday, March 13, a team of ASUC-affiliated UC Berkeley students submitted their own proposal which included a campus district outlined in purple below. As can be seen in the image, the student district includes south side housing, the Greek community, and residence halls. The Student District’s population is 90% students and will include over 12,000 UC Berkeley students.

Figure 1. Diagram with the proposed student district in purple

Berkeley’s council districts with the proposed student district in purple

Having a student representative on city council is important because not only is over 25% of Berkeley’s population students, but a student council member can help bring visibility to university policy issues.

“A student could bring a voice that’s been missing far too long,” said Cal student and former ASUC External VP Joey Freeman to NBC News. “There are issues like safety, lighting on our street, housing.”

Transparency with regards to local issues is very important because the average college student knows little of university and city policy. Greater awareness of city policies and student issues can lead to better communication between Berkley’s residential community and its student population. This isn’t the first time students have campaigned for redistricting; similar efforts in 2011 failed to pass. The redistricting proposals are expected to be evaluated by the end of the year, and if Berkeley students get their wish, a student may be sitting at the same table as Mayor Tom Bates as early as 2014.

The full proposed Student District bill can be found in its entirety here.

A new format for The Russell Bulletin

It’s been only two weeks since I revamped The Russell Bulletin and I’m already looking at ways I can change the site to make it a better experience for readers. There are three big changes that are going to be rolled out over the next few days that I think people will love:

  • Ads are going away as of now. The site does not yet have sufficient traffic to interest quality ad networks like Fusion, The Syndicate, or The Deck just yet, so Adsense was my default option. I don’t know about most of you, but I hate the look of Google’s ads – I shouldn’t have put them up in the first place. With that said, I won’t rule out ads in the future, especially if given the opportunity to feature those from the aforementioned networks.
  • I’m going to be integrating Tinypass into the site sometime this weekend. I don’t think that we produce enough content at this point in time to justify having a full-on paywall – even a “leaky” one like The New York Times or The Dish – but I do like the idea of enabling our readers to support what we do in an inexpensive and unobtrusive manner. For now the only “perk” subscribers will get is the satisfaction derived from helping a team of young writers pay for books and ramen through our work on this site, but as time goes on I’d like to start including new features like subscriber-exclusive longform posts or a podcast like Shawn Blanc’s Shawn Today.
  • Starting tomorrow morning, there will be a post “stuck” to the top of the home page of The Russell Bulletin that will feature the top news of the day. Instead of doing individual posts throughout the day on the same story, we’ll simply update this sticky piece to reflect new developments. I think that this would go a long way towards making this site useful for readers who don’t feel like scanning through news sites every few hours, as The Brief and Evening Edition have done. To keep readers engaged after they’ve caught up on the day’s events, we’ll still have our wonderful linked-list posts right below the sticky piece.

I’d love to hear any thoughts on these changes via Twitter (@humblemacaroni or @russellbulletin) or email to

The United States will never turn into Greece

No, the United States Will Never, Ever Turn Into Greece:

To translate from stats-speak: our equation for non-euro countries tells us increasing debt by 1 percentage point of GDP only increases borrowing costs by 1.3 basis points. And that result isn’t even statistically significant. In other words, there is no evidence of a debt tipping point for countries that borrow in money they can print.

Yay for statistical evidence!

Elizabeth Warren goes after banking regulators in HSBC case

elizabeth warren hsbc

“Elizabeth Warren Comes Out Swinging Against Banks”:

The latest example came last Thursday during a Banking Committee hearing, when Warren demanded answers from a panel of federal regulators as to why the multinational bank HSBC got off with a fine for money laundering for Mexican drug cartels — along with violating international sanctions against several countries, including Iran and Libya — when people caught with drugs go to jail for life.

“No one individual went to trial, no individual was banned from banking and there was no hearing to consider shutting down HSBC’s activities here in the United States,” Warren said. “So … what does it take? How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?”

I am astounded by the fact that no one went to jail as a result of the HSBC investigation.

Global temperatures rising at faster rate than any point in last 11,500 years

climate change graph

“The Scariest Climate Change Graph Just Got Scarier”:

To be clear, the study finds that temperatures in about a fifth of this historical period were higher than they are today. But the key, said lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University, is that temperatures are shooting through the roof faster than we’ve ever seen.

“What we found is that temperatures increased in the last hundred years as much as they had cooled in the last six or seven thousand,” he said. “In other words, the rate of change is much greater than anything we’ve seen in the whole Holocene,” referring to the current geologic time period, which began around 11,500 years ago.

My greatest fear is that we’re already too late to stop this change from becoming irreversible.

The state of racism today

racism today

Something that should be talked about more:

Now that racism is no longer respectable, it’s tempting to reason conversely and suggest respectable people can’t be racists. But to do that is to reason racism virtually out of existence. Most of the world’s religious and moral traditions try to remind us that while good works are always to be valued, there is something in the human soul that makes good people prone to doing bad things. That did not stop being the case when racism was deemed “bad” by national consensus in this country, and those of us who will never suffer a single indignity for the color of our skin should remember that before turning all human experience on its head and claiming we are the victims of racism if our own good will is challenged.

Darwinist mob goes after atheist philosopher


Leon Wieseltier, for The New Republic:

Here was a signal to the Darwinist dittoheads that a mob needed to be formed. In an earlier book Nagel had dared to complain of “Darwinist imperialism,” though in his scrupulous way he added that “there is really no reason to assume that the only  alternative to an evolutionary explanation of everything is a religious one.” He is not, God forbid, a theist. But he went on to warn that “this may not be comforting enough” for the materialist establishment, which may find it impossible to tolerate also “any cosmic order of which mind is an irreducible and non-accidental part.” For the bargain-basement atheism of our day, it is not enough that there be no God: there must be only matter.

There are idiots on every side of every religious debate. Checkmate, (a)theists!