Just this past June one of the NYT’s most popular articles was this piece on the role of microbes in the human body, In Good Health? Thank Your 100 Trillion Bacteria
They discovered more strains than they had ever imagined — as many as a thousand bacterial strains on each person. And each person’s collection of microbes, the microbiome, was different from the next person’s. To the scientists’ surprise, they also found genetic signatures of disease-causing bacteria lurking in everyone’s microbiome. But instead of making people ill, or even infectious, these disease-causing microbes simply live peacefully among their neighbors.
Well you know how neighbors are, there is always that cranky SOB that ruins it for everyone, Common Parasite Linked to Personality Changes
Feeling sociable or reckless? You might have toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by the microscopic parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which the CDC estimates has infected about 22.5 percent of Americans older than 12 years old. Researchers tested participants for T. gondii infection and had them complete a personality questionnaire. They found that both men and women infected with T. gondii were more extroverted and less conscientious than the infection-free participants. These changes are thought to result from the parasite’s influence on brain chemicals, the scientists write in the May/June issue of the European Journal of Personality.
Toxoplasma works by increasing the amount of dopamine concentrations and changing the levels of certain hormones. Humans are generally only hosts, not vectors for this parasite. Its target it actually mice and rats. Doped up on dopamine they become less afraid of cats. The cats don’t have to eat the rodents, just bite off enough to become infected. The cat spread around some more T. gondii by way of the cat’s feces. This is the reason that pregnant women are warned to stay away from cat litter. The parasite can have severe effects on the developing fetus’s brain. While cats and rodents would seem to be the main source of infection for humans, it is actually undercooked meat of animals that have consumed some infected feces during their life. Since the French – as a general sociological and cultural phenomenon – tend to under-cook their meats more than most nations, they have the highest rate of infections. The article link does not say anything about treatment for humans. So I looked it up on the intertubes. One site said that an infection in humans was no big deal and would go away on its own. They need to update their site. WebMD does list some of the drugs used to kill the infection. Considering that one of the possible side effects of Toxoplasma gondii infection is incresed risky behavior, including an increased tendency towards suicide I’d some meds rather than wait and see what happens.
Concepts of self are tricky. For some philosophers having some idea about self is the first step in how we inquiry about the world. Others, such as Descartes thought the self was a concept of autonomy, it existed regardless of what one’s surroundings are like. This is in somewhat opposition to Michel Foucault who thought the self was something constantly evolving, and much of it defined by conflict with the world. Not necessarily armed conflict – you live with someone who likes the thermostat on 74 and you like it on 72. The external - religion, physical environment, income, chance, personal experience are all elements of the interchange between the internal – sex, genetics, personality, eye color, ethnicity. Still, most of s have at least a fuzzy portrait of self – we generally know many of our preferences – food, clothing, sleep needs, taste in reading, movies, favorite colors. Some elements, seem to philosophers and physiologists as being more in focus than other depending on the individual. Millionaire Mitt: It’s ‘Fair’ For Me To Pay Lower Taxes Than Middle Class Americans. And via @DavidGrann, Paul Ryan on critics: “I think that’s just the nature of conservative punditry is to do that–to kind of complain–about any imperfection” . This conservative inability to grasp irony was probably noted in the blogtopia around 1999.
One of the best tools available for seeing where a country is headed is demographic trends. There is some good news and some not so good, Review: The New Geography of Jobs
Moretti lays out what has happened in America over the past 30-40 years. It’s a trend he labels the “Great Divergence” that is illustrated by the quote at the top of this piece. There has been an increasing division among American communities between the haves and the have-nots. As radical productivity enhancements and global competition reduced employment and wages in traditional sectors like manufacturing, new knowledge based industries took their place. However, these knowledge industries require, of course, highly educated workers with specialized skills. This leads to clustering of workers and jobs in select hubs, leaving many communities out the cold.
[ ]…This divergence of fortunes has happened in cities across America. Rather than a red vs. blue America, Moretti sees three Americas: the winners, the losers, and those on the bubble.
I didn’t want to take too much of that blogger’s work so for those who are interested in the topic it is well worth clicking over.