May 21, 2013 4:44 pm
On Monday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said she wasn’t going to worry about ridding Tumblr of porn. “It’s just the nature of user-generated content,” she said.
In other words: Welcome to the Internet, there will be porn.
And Mayer is right. The numbers about just how much of the Internet is dedicated to porn are wildly variable, but they’re there. Some estimates put porn at 30 percent of all Internet traffic. Other places claim the percentage is far higher. Forbes put the question to neuroscientist Ogi Ogas, who studies our consumption of all things wicked, and heard that, in 2010, about 4 percent of websites were dedicated to porn and, between July 2009 to July 2010, about 13 percent of web searches were for some sort of erotica.
Now, some of that comes from the changing demographics of who uses the Internet, says Ogas. When the web was first formed, it was largely populated by dudes. “I think in 1999 that 4 or 5 of the top 10 searches on the Web were for porn,” he told Forbes. But now the uses and users of the Internet have increased dramatically. And while Internet users are still looking for porn, it’s not the only thing or even the most common thing they’re after.
But it is there. It’s there, and it’s easy to find. Which is why parents and lawmakers are still talking about it. In the UK, David Cameron announced that all porn sites would be blocked from public places, striving to create “good, clean WiFi.” Mirror News writes that the Prime Minister “stressed the importance of parents having confidence in public internet systems and that their children ‘are not going to see things they shouldn’t’.” And the UK isn’t the only place to talk about cracking down on porn. In Iceland, they’ve proposed to ban all online pornography—a curious turn for a generally liberal country.
Now, actually carrying these bans out is hard. You can’t just flip a switch and change the content of the Internet. The Economist explains why Iceland’s ban in particular would be hard, but the reasons stand for most porn bans:
Banning online pornography would be tricky. The definition of violent or degrading pornography would have to be clearly enshrined in law. Iceland would then have to police the internet, a difficult thing to do. When Denmark and Australia introduced online blacklists in an effort to block porn sites, some innocuous websites crept on to the lists by mistake.
Basically, actually rooting out which sites are porn and which aren’t isn’t as easy as it might sound. And, ban or no ban, porn will always be on the Internet for those who choose to seek it out.
This is why some places are arguing that rather than ban or regulate or stamp out porn, children and adults should simply be educated on the pros and cons of pornography. In the UK, where they want to ban porn from public wifi, 83 percent of parents felt that students should learn about pornography in sex education classes. In the United States, one class at Pasadena College takes porn head on. The course, Navigating Pornography, has students watch and discuss porn, and tries to debunk the myth that people should learn about sexuality through porn. “Students today live in a porn-saturated culture and very rarely get a chance to learn about it in a safe, non-judgmental, intellectually thoughtful way,” professor Hugo Schwyzer told the Huffington Post.
Buzzfeed visited Schwyzer’s class to see just what a course in porn might be like:
But in many places, where even regular sex education is hard to come by, the chances that students will learn about porn are slim to none. The National Children’s Bureau says that teaching about porn is crucial to giving children a well-rounded education about sex and relationships. Lucy Emmerson, Co-ordinator of the Sex Education Forum for the NCB, says that teachers are too scared to mention porn in class. “Given the ease with which children are able to access explicit sexual content on the Internet, it is vital that teachers can respond to this reality appropriately,” she says. “Whilst in some cases children find this material by accident, there are instances when they come across pornography whilst looking for answers to sex education questions; it is therefore wholly appropriate that pornography and the issues it reveals are addressed in school SRE.”
Basically, the reality is that ban or not, young people are going to encounter pornography on the Internet. Whether or not they’re ready for it seems to be up to their parents and teachers.
More from Smithsonian.com:
May 21, 2013 2:54 pm
Yellowstone National Park is a vast expanse of largely-untouched natural beauty, a tract of the Midwest home to bears and wolves and geysers and mountains. But where humankind’s direct influence is deliberately kept to a minimum, that strategy of do-no-harm doesn’t always seem to work. For the past few decades, lake trout have been taking over the rivers and lakes in Yellowstone, pushing out the local Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition:
Yellowstone Lake and its tributaries once supported an estimated 3.5 million Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Since the illegal introduction of lake trout in the 1980s, the cutthroat population in Yellowstone Lake has plummeted. Catch rates for Yellowstone cutthroats have significantly dropped as more and more lake trout are caught every year. The precipitous drop in cutthroat numbers is a result of lake trout predating on cutthroat trout.
But more than just affecting cutthroat trout, the invasion of the lake trout is being felt throughout the ecosystem. According to new research lead by Yale’s Arthur Middleton, the replacement of cutthroat trout with lake trout is leaving Yellowstone’s local population of grizzly bears without enough fish to eat. Middleton and colleagues:
Historically, Yellowstone Lake harboured an abundant population of cutthroat trout, but lake trout prey heavily on cutthroat trout and have driven a decline of more than 90 per cent in their numbers. Although cutthroat trout migrate up shallow tributary streams to spawn, and are exploited by many terrestrial predators, lake trout spawn on the lake bottom and are inaccessible to those predators.
Without fish, the grizzlies need something, and in their place the bears have turned to eating baby elk.
In the late 1980s, grizzly and black bears killed an estimated 12 per cent of the elk calves in northern Yellowstone annually. By the mid-2000s, bears were estimated to kill 41 per cent of calves.
The researchers say that by turning to elk calves in place of the now-gone trout, the elk population growth rate has shrunk by 2 to as much as 11 percent. The research reminds that the food web is in fact a web, and that the illegal introduction of a few trout can mean a whole lot of dead elk.
More from Smithsonian.com:
May 21, 2013 2:29 pm
For patients suffering from C. difficile colitis—a stubbornly persistant severe bowel inflammation that often evades conventional treatment—a stool transplant from a family member, friend or even doctor can often fix the problem. Over the past several years, an increasing number of patients have found relief through fecal transplants, which involves an injection of sterile communities of gut microbes from another person—not actual feces. Patients undergoing such procedures have seen seemingly miraculous results. Some trials show that up to 94 percent of patients’ C. difficile infections clear up following a transplant.
But now, as Scientific American writes, “the sh*t has hit the fan.” The Food and Drug Administration has caught a whiff of the controversial new treatment and has declared fecal transplants as a biologic therapy, meaning any doctor who wants to use it will have to file an investigational new drug application. For patients, this means more paperwork, a longer wait for treatment and a potential application rejection from the FDA.
This isn’t exactly welcome news for doctors, either. Judy Stone, an infectious disease specialist, further delves into the issue in SciAm:
Yes, there are many questions involving FMT that do warrant further study. For example, what is the best diluent for the stool? Saline or water or milk or other? What is the most efficacious route of administration—colonoscopy vs enema vs nasoduodenal tube?
However, she writes, fecal transplants do display better efficacy in patients than many other treatments—some already approved by the FDA, others not—which also tend to cost more and may cause serious side effects.
I think it is reasonable for the FDA to provide guidance and to try to collect data in some standardized format so that we can learn more about best approaches. My understanding is that individual physicians will have to develop and submit their own plan for treatment—which is both burdensome and will not result in any generalizable conclusions. While the FDA says that in emergencies, physicians can seek urgent approval, rather than wait for a 30 day turnaround time on their IND submission, in practical terms, this isn’t going to happen.
On MedPageToday, infectious disease expert William Schaffner at Vanderbilt University, predicted that the new regulation would significantly increase cost to researchers (though he could not put a number on that figure). Michael Edmond, a physician at Virginia Commonwealth University, complains on his blog Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention:
Over the past several days I have spent a lot of time talking to patients, trying to explain why I’ve had to cancel their upcoming fecal transplant.
So now I must apply for an IND number, which requires that I send the FDA my protocol. On the 30th day after receipt of my documents the FDA will let me know whether I can proceed. When I talked to the FDA officer yesterday she informed me that the FDA is only interested in fecal transplants with regards to safety. They want to ensure that donors are appropriately screened. Thus, I need to send them my protocol for donor testing and then I will get a ruling. I asked the officer what the FDA was looking for and was told that they can’t say but will either approve or not approve my protocol. Now wouldn’t it have made more sense for the FDA to review the literature and consult experts about what optimal testing of donors and safeguards should be for the procedure and simply require practitioners to follow their guideline instead of the guess-what-I’m-thinking-and-wait-30-days game?
Other doctors are put out, but more understanding of the FDA’s decision. MedPageToday writes:
Herbert DuPont, MD, of the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston, who is gearing up for a major fecal transplantation program there, said he already had his protocol approved by the center’s Institutional Review Board (IRB).
“Am I disappointed? Yes,” DuPont told MedPage Today. “Do I have problems with the outcome? Absolutely not.”
DuPont, who also attended the hearing, said he understood the FDA’s concerns about needing to set standards for safety and efficacy with procedures such as fecal transplant.
Dr. Stone suggests instead that the FDA clinicians to pursue the treatment in certain patients who qualify, and exclude them from the lengthy approval process. Otherwise, just like so-called worm therapy, or deliberate infection with parasitic worms to treat diseases ranging from asthma to Crohn’s disease to multiple sclerosis, patients may try to perform the procedure at home and a blackmarket may even emerge for fecal transplants. So, while law-abiding patients suffer in the hospital from C. difficile infections, others will try to perform their own DIY fecal transplants at home, which will likely cause additional health and safety issues when things in the bathroom go awry.
More from Smithsonian.com:
May 21, 2013 10:42 am
Bottlenose dolphins working for the U.S. Navy discovered a rare 19th century torpedo off the coast of Coronado, Calif., while searching for underwater mines and other objects that evade technological detection. The brass torpedo is 11 feet long and weighs 132 pounds, and it could range 400 yards when launched. Called a Howell torpedo, the old military relic was a marvel in its day, the Los Angeles Times reports, and will likely find a home in a military museum.
While not as well known as the Gatling gun and the Sherman tank, the Howell torpedo was hailed as a breakthrough when the U.S. was in heavy competition for dominance on the high seas. It was the first torpedo that could truly follow a track without leaving a wake and then smash a target, according to Navy officials.
Only 50 were made between 1870 and 1889 by a Rhode Island company before a rival copied and surpassed the Howell’s capability.
Until recently only one Howell torpedo was known to exist, on display at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash. Now a second has been discovered, not far from the Hotel del Coronado.
The dolphins that uncovered the long-lost treasure use a biosonar system more sophisticated than any modern technology can provide. When dolphins find an object of interest, they resurface and tap the front of their handlers’ boat with their snouts. Last month, a dolphin named Ten indicated something was submerged in the area where the torpedo was later discovered, though at the time its human handlers dismissed the signal since they didn’t expect to find any objects there. Last week, another dolphin named Spetz alerted its handlers to the same spot, and this time the humans paid attention.
Navy divers and then explosive-ordnance technicians examined the object, which was in two pieces, and determined that the years had rendered it inert. On one piece was the stamp “USN No. 24.”
The torpedo pieces were lifted to the surface and taken to a Navy base for cleaning and to await shipment to the Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard.
According the the LA Times, the divers had to consult both Google and military experts to reveal the identity of the ancient torpedo.
More from Smithsonian.com:
May 20, 2013 7:36 pm
A timelapse video from wmctv shows the progress of the destructive Oklahoma tornado.
Update, 10:05 am, May 21, 2013: The Oklahoma City medical examiner said that at least 91 people had died as a result of the tornado but later revised that count, saying that only 24 deaths had been confirmed. Emergency workers were still working early this morning to make their way through debris at Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children have been found dead.
Originally posted on May 20: In Moore, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City, an incredibly powerful tornado just came and went, a nearly hour-long ordeal that, as of the time of this writing, has trapped 75 school children in their school, injured hundreds of people and left a city in ruins.
There are a lot of parameters by which a tornado can be deemed the worst, and by pretty much all counts today’s Moore tornado is up there. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration keeps a list of historical tornadoes—devastating twisters known for their size, their duration and their destruction. Though the Moore tornado doesn’t trump any of them, its combination of size, strength and duration made it an incredibly dangerous storm.
One factor that really set today’s Moore tornado apart was its staggering size. According to The New York Times, today’s tornado was “perhaps a mile wide.” Other reports put it closer to two miles in width. According to NOAA, the largest tornado on record hit Hallam, Nebraska in 2004. That twister was two-and-a-half miles wide. “This is probably close to the maximum size for tornadoes; but it is possible that larger, unrecorded ones have occurred,” writes NOAA of the 2004 tornado.
On top of its massive girth, today’s tornado was also incredibly strong. The Associated Press reports that wind speeds in the twister hit upwards of 199 miles per hour (320 kilometers per hour). The record holder, says NOAA, saw winds peaking at 302 miles per hour (486 kilometers per hour.) That storm, unfortunately, hit pretty much the exact same place as this one. It swept just north of Moore on May 3, 1999.
But while the wind speed of today’s twister falls below that of the May 1999 storm, the damage caused by a tornado isn’t all due to wind speed. The amount of time that the storm stays on the ground is also incredibly important.
Today’s Moore tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes. Most tornadoes last just a few minutes. But they can sit around for up to an hour. One of the most deadly tornadoes in history, the 1925 Tri-State Tornado, sat on the ground for a terrifying three-and-a-half hours.
Of course, while all of these parameters are a window into the destructive potential of nature, what matters most to many is the toll on human life. Though casualties are at this point still uncertain, FOX’s KDVR reports that “more than 171,000 people were in the path of the storm.” Several casualties have already been reported, but it will take time for the full destructive power of the storm to become known.
Fortunately, at least, casualties will likely be below the record set by the the March 1925 tornado that swept through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, the one that stayed down for 3.5 hours. That storm killed 695 people. Advances in early detection and warning systems have brought the deaths caused by tornadoes down over time, and one can only hope that people were able to seek shelter from the dark side of nature.
More from Smithsonian.com: