Get Tough

The problem with the current media environment—with its 24-hour news cycle and constant flow of breaking stories—may not be "too much information," as we often hear, but rather "too much misinformation."

Especially as the healthcare debate comes to a head, news organizations have attempted to come up with packages that make sense of the issues at stake. That's the impetus behind this "primer" from the Associated Press, which makes a welcome addition to the discussion (and that's despite the many flaws the Columbia Journalism Review was able to find in the AP's overview).


But much more frequently, the easiest way for media outlets to seem balanced in their coverage and to appear as if they are providing readers and viewers with a complete picture of the discussion is to just reiterate the partisan talking points. Over at Media Nation, Dan Kennedy has posted an excellent, outraged response to the media's "typically mindless 'he said/she said' horse-race coverage" of the healthcare debate, in which he shows that this approach has spread lies about how the bills handle one of the most inflammatory issues in American politics: abortion. Kennedy's post exposes the way the debate has been hijacked by talking-point falsehoods, how politicians such as House Republican leader John Boehner can claim on national news outlets that the House bill would allow "taxpayer-funded abortions" without being challenged by the media. Kennedy cites sources as diverse as PolitiFact.com, "serious pro-life Democrat" Dale Kildee, and a coalition of 50,000 Catholic nuns, who all argue that no, the House bill does not allow federal funding for abortion and in fact maintains the abortion-funding status quo.

Instead of asking the tough questions, the media too often just takes politicians at their word in the pursuit of what Kennedy calls "fake even-handedness." Perhaps Washington reporters, as In These Times' Candace Clement argues, could learn a thing or two from Hollywood paparazzi. As much as I had a knee-jerk aversion to the idea when I first read Clement's piece, if journalists took the relentless tactics the paparazzi use to probe every aspect of celebrities' private lives and re-purposed them to probe every aspect of politicians' public statements, maybe we wouldn't have the likes of Boehner and Stupak getting away with outright lies.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

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Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Climate change melts Mount Everest's ice, exposing dead bodies of past climbers

Melting ice is turning up bodies on Mt. Everest. This isn't as shocking as you'd think.

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Surprising Science
  • Mt. Everest is the final resting place of about 200 climbers who never made it down.
  • Recent glacial melting, caused by global warming, has made many of the bodies previously hidden by ice and snow visible again.
  • While many bodies are quite visible and well known, others are renowned for being lost for decades.

The bodies that remain in view are often used as waypoints for the living. Some of them are well-known markers that have earned nicknames.

For instance, the image above is of "Green Boots," the unidentified corpse named for its neon footwear. Widely believed to be the body of Tsewang Paljor, the remains are well known as a guide point for passing mountaineers. Perhaps it is too well known, as the climber David Sharp died next to Green Boots while dozens of people walked past him- many presuming he was the famous corpse.

A large area below the summit has earned the discordant nickname "rainbow valley" for being filled with the bright and colorfully dressed corpses of maintainers who never made it back down. The sight of a frozen hand or foot sticking out of the snow is so common that Tshering Pandey Bhote, vice president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association claimed: "most climbers are mentally prepared to come across such a sight."

Other bodies are famous for not having been found yet. Sandy Irvine, the partner of George Mallory, may have been one of the first two people to reach the summit of Everest a full thirty years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it. Since they never made it back down, nobody knows just how close to the top they made it.

Mallory's frozen body was found by chance in the nineties without the Kodak cameras he brought up to record the climb with. It has been speculated that Irvine might have them and Kodak says they could still develop the film if the cameras turn up. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they died on the way back down from the summit, Mallory had his goggles off and a photo of his wife he said he'd put at the peak wasn't in his coat. If Irving is found with that camera, history books might need rewriting.

As Everest's glaciers melt its morbid history comes into clearer view. Will the melting cause old bodies to become new landmarks? Will Sandy Irvine be found? Only time will tell.

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