Real-Life Superheroes or Masked Activists?
It sounds like a ridiculous premise for a bad Hollywood script. A very, very bad Hollywood script. But a confluence of forces over the past two years could be contributing to a bizarre rise in real-life, mask-and-spandex super heroes. With a heightened sense of online activism and large-scale cuts in a number of police forces, these pseudo-superheroes appear to be part vigilante, part activist. That's right, superhero activists.
The cuts in police forces across the Western world, from England to Michigan, have inspired fears of impending crime waves. And while not every region has seen a sudden rise in crime, the past few years have seen the emergence of a fascinating networks of street-fighting superheroes inspired by a century of iconic comic culture. A culture, mind you, that has seen recent record prices for old superhero comics.
In a bizarro parallel of online activist networks, a number of traditional mask-and-spandex pseudo-heroes have taken to the web to mobilize. One of the first calls from action came from a New Jersey resident calling himself Phantom Zero, a masked man who seemed to fashion himself more a humanitarian than a crimefighter. The idea of the superhero-as-activist has indirectly contributed to a number of sites, like Superheroes Anonymous, which looks to inspire “the superhero in all people through outreach, education, and creative community service.”
But community activists (of sorts) are doing more than borrowing the basic superhero ethos. There has even sprouted a national network of costumed individuals patrolling streets across the country. You can follow a number of them on an official World Superhero Registry. And in a bizarre case of life imitating art, mainstream media, both print and online has embraced the work of these individuals in a not-completely-ironic way. Even Hollywood has jumped on the concept of the DIY superhero with upcoming films like Kickass and Defendor.
So is all this emerging superhero activity a vigilante uprising or a call to activism? Perhaps a bit of both. Either way, there is no denying the dozens of people suddenly fashioning themselves in the Superman mold. Some, like Captain Australia, even have their own web site. With 2010 already declared the year of the real-life superhero, it’s hard to tell how many of these street fighters are embracing a true activist imperative. There are some we already know of, including Mexico’s Superbarrio, who acts primarily as a political organizer. Nobody’s saying masked vigilantes are the future of activism, but it certainly appears to be a new take on an old standard.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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