Awful person…and he was a scientist, too

This story is unbelievably horrible. Adam Britton, a fairly well-known Australian expert on crocodiles, has been arrested for unspeakable acts.

A prominent crocodile specialist from Darwin has pleaded guilty to dozens of charges of bestiality involving the torture, rape and killing of pet dogs.

A suppression order had hidden the identity of Adam Robert Corden Britton, a zoologist who has built an international reputation for his work on crocodiles over decades, since his arrest last year. However, that has now been lifted.

Britton is facing 60 charges relating to bestiality and possessing, accessing, and transmitting child abuse material.

A number of videos depicting animal cruelty were found during a joint NT Police and Australian Federal Police raid which resulted in his arrest on a rural Darwin property last year.

You’d think a professional zoologist would have a deep respect for animals. If he offered to adopt a pet dog you could no longer care for, you’d think that for sure you were sending the animal off to an excellent home. You’d think wrong.

Britton had a “sadistic sexual interest” in animals since at least 2014, prosecutors told the court, and along with exploiting his own pets, he had manipulated other dog owners into giving him theirs.

He would use the online marketplace platform Gumtree Australia to find people who were often reluctantly giving their pets away due to travel or work commitments, building a “rapport” with them to negotiate taking custody of the animals. If they reached out to Britton for updates on their old pets, he would tell them “false narratives” and send them old photos.

In reality, he was abusing the animals in a shipping container on his property that had been fitted out with recording equipment – which the court heard he called a “torture room” – before sharing footage of his crimes online under pseudonyms.

A truly sick man.

Prosecutors told the court Britton owned a shipping container on his property equipped with filming equipment and used the space “to torture, sexually exploit and kill dogs”.

Last year, police seized 44 items including computers, mobile telephones, cameras, external hard drives, tools, weapons, dog paraphernalia and sex toys.

Mr Aust told the court that Britton operated a Telegram account which was used for the sole purpose of engaging in conversations with “like-minded people”, and that he used another account to upload and disseminate images and recordings of his crimes.

“Using these applications, the offender discussed his ‘kill count’ … and described the shipping container on his property as his ‘torture room’,” Mr Aust said.

The only reasonable penalty for this monster was suggested at the end of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I’m sorry to say.

Sometimes it’s hard to be against the death penalty.

What happens on 4 October?

This is all rather vague, but this person has put it all together — 5G towers, chemtrails, smartphones, all the modern stuff, and a few myths — to predict our doom next week.

I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen, though. How are these devices supposed to suddenly kill us? A little more clarity would help.

She has fully embraced the power of the tinfoil hat, though. We’re supposed to wrap all our dangerous devices in aluminum foil and stash them in our cars, and park the cars 200 meters away (will they explode? I don’t know). Then wrap a room in multiple layers of aluminum foil and hide in there on 4-5 October, after which you can emerge into a world cleansed of technology, I guess, and…I don’t know.

How does she come to possess this secret and specific knowledge? The only possible way is if she is one of Them. If we survive next week, we’re going to have to travel the wasteland and hunt her down.

Bullies

I was not bullied much as a kid, which is surprising given that I was funny-looking, nerdy, and bad at sports. I would have thought I’d be a prime target, but no, I can only think of two incidents.

When I was in middle school, there was a gang of older girls who liked to intercept me as I was walking home from school, and surround me and mockingly tease me — ruffling my hair, telling me I was cute, asking about all my girlfriends, giggling as they made fun of me. It wasn’t your classical kind of bullying, but it hurt just the same, and I would linger by a corner of the school until they’d moved on, or change my route to avoid them. Even today I still feel the sting when anyone compliments me, so don’t. I only mention it for completeness’ sake.

The other incident was in third grade, and better fits the typical mold. There was a huge kid in my class, I’ll call him Huey because he had that kind of physique and was a bit on the dim side, and one day he grabbed me as I was walking home, threw me down, and sat on me and started punching me.

The thing is, Huey wasn’t the bully here — we later got along just fine, in part because I didn’t talk to him or about him. No, the real bully was the principal of the school, Pete Baffaro (his real name, boy did I despise him) who charged over to the grassy lot where I was visibly outclassed, grabbed both of us and hauled us into his office, where he pulled out a wide leather strap and proceed to brutally beat us both to the point I was uncomfortable sitting down for days afterwards.

I learned an important lesson that day. The real bullies weren’t my peers, but the officials who lorded over us and felt they could abuse us with impunity. Ever since, I’ve been deeply mistrustful of the kind of bullying assholes who get on school boards or other elected positions, or who are hired by bigger bullies into positions of power, who just want to control others.

This reminiscence was triggered by an article by AR Moxon, writing about the bullies who want to be elected governor of Missouri. He’s discussing the story of the Republican political candidates who put on a show of using flamethrowers on a pile of boxes, to demonstrate what they’d do to them there woke books if they get elected.

This is nothing new these days, really. Republican office-holders and aspiring office-holders have been burning and shooting all sorts of effigies for years now, indicating the types of things and people they would like to see eliminated in one way or another.

A lot of people are alarmed by this, because they understand that burning and shooting things meant to signify certain people is always the precursor to burning and shooting the signified people.

However, I’m told the difference between burning books meant to signify certain types of people and burning cardboard meant to signify books meant to signify people is a very important distinction.

I agree, actually.

It tells us where the permission levels are right now for our national gang of genocidal bullies, by which I mean the Republican Party.

I look at that photo and I see a bunch of Pete Baffaros, seeing an excuse to batter children in the name of protecting them. Don’t elect them, Missouri. There is no kindness in any of them.

Hugo Schwyzer still exists?

It was over 10 years ago that feminist man and professor of gender studies Hugo Schwyzer revealed his true colors, admitting that he’d had sex with his students, and worse. It was a dramatic and abrupt fall from grace, and even as he was plummeting to his doom, he was trying to schmooze his way back into leftist circles.

My behavior with students from 1996-98 was unacceptable for a male feminist and, for that matter, an ethical person. The question is whether the penalty for that ought to be a lifetime ban from teaching gender studies, or writing about the subjects I write about. Some feminists feel yes, it should be. I disagree, but only because so many wonderful feminist mentors of mine have encouraged me to stay in this work.

Ick. Ooze all the slime you want, we can see right through you.

He did not fall wailing all the way into Hell, but he came close. He’s writing for The Federalist now. He’s defending Lauren Boebert and arguing that women have historically been happy to marry young and get pregnant right away, and that abortion is wrong, and that leftists are all hedonistic degenerates. It is virtuous to get married at 16 and to be a grandmother in your 30s, he thinks…and it may very well be a good and satisfying thing for some women, but not all women. Lauren Boebert just made a mistake, and wasn’t at all acting like his imaginary left-wing self-indulgent sex fiends.

At that Denver theater, Boebert had a foolish human moment. She has rightly apologized. That should be the end of it. But because she is a conservative, and because her life and her politics give witness to her pro-life convictions, her apology is insufficient.

Rather, she must be shamed over and over again. We must see that surveillance video of her fumblings a hundred times a day. And her ordinary human frailties must somehow be connected to her deepest convictions so her embarrassment becomes an occasion to smear those who share the congresswoman’s commitment to the unborn.

As cruel and dishonest as the mockery of Boebert is, it is even worse that the left uses this incident to peddle a basic lie about human happiness. Someone is indeed robbing people of their youth, but it isn’t conservatives doing the robbing. The thieves are those who preach the lie that self-indulgence and experimentation are pathways to fulfillment rather than despair.

First of all, nobody needs to see that video a hundred times a day. I saw it once, and that was enough. It says something about Hugo that he’s watching it that many times.

Secondly, the Left isn’t preaching lies about self-indulgence and experimentation. The idea is that, instead, women should have the same freedoms men have, the same opportunities to pursue a fulfilling life that isn’t necessarily just having lots of babies as soon as they can. I have classes full of young women (that I’m not abusing sexually, so maybe Schwyzer can’t identify) who are thinking about careers in science, who are doing science, and who are aware that a pregnancy would derail all those plans. Fortunately, they are also smart enough to know about birth control and abortion, not because they want to live frivolously, but because they are hoping for the opposite, a serious and productive life that isn’t controlled by men.

On a happier note, the article closes with a brief biography.

Hugo Schwyzer was a professor of history and gender studies at Pasadena City College from 1993-2013. He is now a ghostwriter living in Los Angeles.

Buh-bye, Hugo. I hope you too are living a fruitful and fulfilling life, but the fact that you are reduced to writing for the Federalist suggests otherwise.

Synchronicity is just another word for coincidence

Lately, I’ve been having these odd dreams in which I’m traveling to Quito, where I’m expected to take a ride in the space elevator. I’m oddly anxious about it, and I don’t know why, and I don’t board the silly thing. The End.

Anyway, this morning I discover that Angela Collier has a video about space elevators, and she dismantles the concept with math and engineering, which was very satisfying.

Very convenient. Next time this dream pops up in my subconscious playlist, I’ll just dismiss it and say it’s not possible, go away, and get back to that nice dream where I can talk to spiders.

A horror scenario

Could a disease arise that killed half the human population? And that inflicted horrifying neurological effects as the victims slowly died? Sure could. It’s happened in other animals. It’s happening right now in moose.

Minnesota saw a 58% decline of the moose population in the northeastern part of the state between 2006 and 2017.

If you’ve ever seen a moose, you know they’re huge and intimidating — you don’t want to tangle with one. The bulls are temperamental and cranky, the cows are fiercely protective, and you really don’t want to have to deal with a 700kg angry beast. But here’s what’s bringing them low.

A primary driver of the decline is brainworm, a parasite that affects the animal’s nervous system ultimately leading to paralysis and death. Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa recently discovered evidence that moose in Minnesota consume species of gastropods —slugs and snails—which are known hosts for the brainworm parasite (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis).

This massive die-off is a consequence of climate change: the worm is moving north as the weather warms, migrating with resistant deer populations whose range is overlapping with that of moose. When people talk about new diseases accompanying climate shifts, this is the kind of thing we’re talking about.

It can happen to us, you know.

I do sometimes wonder if Republicans have been eating snails.

The algorithm may have killed another expert for me

It’s a real shame. I used to watch Sabine Hossenfelder videos regularly — she was explaining stuff far outside my background, so it was good to learn about it. Her recent escapades have me wondering how good her explanations actually were — maybe they were great? I don’t know. But now I’ve unsubscribed and all of her videos are unappealing, because they’re long and sometimes technically challenging and now I can’t trust her enough to make the effort.

Yeah, Sabine does it again. Her strongly pro-capitalist position is backed with bad and sloppy evidence, fails to recognize the deep flaws in capitalism, and is beginning to remind me of Ayn Rand. No, thanks. (If I found someone fanatically supporting communism with the same kind of mangled evidence, I’d also drop them from my approved list — this is not an ideologically framed decision.)

Oh, well. Youtubers are a dime-a-dozen, I’ll find a replacement.

By the way, I do wonder if what ruined Sabine Hossenfelder for me was capitalism — the need of prominent Youtubers to feed the sacred algorithm with click-baity bullshit. So capitalism is bad?

What’s the worst job?

I can think of lots of candidates for the worst job humans could do. Commercial fishing is incredibly dangerous, and requires exhausting effort in miserable conditions. Stoop labor, like what we compel immigrants to do, is going to mess your body up in the long term, with chronic pain in the back and limbs, as well as being degradingly disrespected. You probably have your own examples of work that you would never want to do. But in my opinion, there is one job that is the ultimate worst.

Astronaut.

Human beings are not adapted to microgravity and high radiation. We’ve got enough data now on the consequences of long-term living in space (where long-term is a matter of months — no one is going to be able to live their lives in space).

Human bodies really can’t handle space. Spaceflight damages DNA, changes the microbiome, disrupts circadian rhythms, impairs vision, increases the risk of cancer, causes muscle and bone loss, inhibits the immune system, weakens the heart, and shifts fluids toward the head, which may be pathological for the brain over the long term—among other things.

It’s a devastating combination of effects with long-term consequences. A short hop into space, like billionaires like to play at, is one thing, but staying up their long enough for your physiology to try to adapt is another. It’s a long gamble in which you try to determine which systems fuck up first.

She also wants to figure out how to help astronauts’ faltering immune systems, which look older and have a harder time repairing tissue damage than they should after spending time in space. “The immune system is aging quite fast in microgravity,” Schrepfer says. She sends biological samples from young, healthy people on Earth up to orbit on tissue chips and tracks how they degrade.

Vision and bone problems are also among the more serious side effects. When astronauts spend a month or more in space, their eyeballs flatten, one aspect of a condition called spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome, which can cause long-lasting damage to eyesight. Bones and muscles are built for life on Earth, which involves the ever present pull of gravity. The work the body does against gravity to stay upright and move around keeps muscles from atrophying and stimulates bone growth. In space, without a force to push against, astronauts can experience bone loss that outpaces bone growth, and their muscles shrink. That’s why they must do hours of exercise every day, using specialized equipment that helps to simulate some of the forces their anatomy would feel on the ground—and even this training doesn’t fully alleviate the loss.

Perhaps the most significant concern about bodies in space, though, is radiation, something that is manageable for today’s astronauts flying in low-Earth orbit but would be a bigger deal for people traveling farther and for longer. Some of it comes from the sun, which spews naked protons that can damage DNA, particularly during solar storms. “[That] could make you very, very sick and give you acute radiation syndrome,” says Dorit Donoviel, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH).

Then there are the big questions.

And an even simpler ethical question is, “Should we actually send people on these sorts of things?” Green says. Aside from incurring significant risks of cancer and overall body deterioration, astronauts aiming to settle another world have a sizable chance of losing their lives. Even if they do live, there are issues with what kind of an existence they might have. “It’s one thing just to survive,” Green says. “But it’s another thing to actually enjoy your life. Is Mars going to be the equivalent of torture?”

Yes.

Wow, it’s always nice to see a grand ethical question that can be answered so easily.

But is the pioneer way of life virtuous? I don’t think so. We have our own on-planet example of the American westward expansion, which was not at all about heroic, noble adventurers pushing back the foreskin of the wilderness. It was all about colonizers ripping up the environment, killing any people who stood in the way (at least we don’t have to worry about that in space), and suffering hellishly. I think you need to be a psychopath to want this way of life.

On this question, science-fiction scholar Gary Westfahl casts doubt on space travel’s inherent value. In his vast analyses of sci-fi, he has come to view the logic and drive of the enterprise as faulty. “I inevitably encountered the same argument: space travel represents humanity’s destiny,” he says of the impetus for writing his essay “The Case against Space.” Space explorers are often portrayed as braver and better than those who remain on their home planet: they’re the ones pushing civilization forward. “Philosophically, I objected to the proposition that explorers into unknown realms represented the best and brightest of humanity; that progress could be achieved only by boldly venturing into unknown territories,” Westfahl says. After all, a lot of smart and productive people (not to mention a lot of happy and stable people) don’t spend their lives on the lam. “Clearly, history demonstrates no correlation between travel and virtue,” he writes. “The history of our species powerfully suggests that progress will come from continued stable life on Earth, and that a vast new program of travel into space will lead to a new period of human stagnation,” he concludes ominously.

The article also talks about the Biosphere studies, which is a cartoon version of space exploration. It’s on Earth, so no peculiar gravity regimes or bombardments by radiation, and they’re swimming in plentiful air and water, so all they’re really testing is the human psychological response to prolonged isolation. It messes people up.

Kowalski’s talk at the Analog Astronaut Conference at Biosphere 2 was called “Only Eight Months.” The goal of those eight months was to study the medical and psychological effects of isolation. She and her teammates regularly provided blood, feces and skin samples so researchers could learn about their stress levels, metabolic function and immunological changes. Researchers also had them take psychological tests, sussing out their perception of time, changes in cognitive abilities and shifts in interpersonal interactions. Inside they had to eat like astronauts would, guzzling tubes of Sicilian pizza gel and burger gel. Kowalski would squeeze them into rehydrated soup to make meals heartier. Via their greenhouse, they got about a bowl of salad between the six of them every three weeks.

Kowalski missed freedom and food and friends, of course. But the real struggle came with her return to the real world once the isolation was over: “reentry, not to the atmosphere but to the planet,” she told the conference audience. She didn’t remember how to go about having friends, hobbies or a job and had trouble dealing with requests coming from lots of sources instead of just mission control. In the Q&A period after the talk, Tara Sweeney, a geologist in the audience, thanked Kowalski for talking about that part of the experience. Sweeney had just returned from a long stay in Antarctica and also didn’t quite know how to reintegrate into life in a more hospitable place. They had both missed “Earth,” the real world. But it was hard to come back.

These effects were reported at a conference of space enthusiasts. You can guess how they responded.

Still, the Analog Astronaut Conference crowd remained optimistic. “Where do we go from here?” conference founder and actual astronaut Sian Proctor asked at one point. On cue, the audience members pointed upward and said, “To the moon!”

I think maybe the real psychopaths aren’t the extreme loners who go out into the dangerous frontier, but the well-off people who send them there.