Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tonight, we will be eating...

Decision Theory is a complex branch of maths, also known as rational choice theory: 'the mathematical study of strategies for optimal decision-making between options involving different risks or expectations of gain or loss depending on the outcome'. It concerns the study of preferences, uncertainties, and other issues related to making "optimal" or "rational" choices. It has been discussed by economists, psychologists, philosophers, mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists.

However, it can be related to everyday decisions in your life. Take for example shopping. You're in the super-market with the intention of buying food to cook a meal for you and your partner. One look around the shelves and you will soon realise that you have thousands of decisions and options in front of you. Do you want to cook fish, chicken or beef? What sauce do you want to go with it? Seasoning? Additions of side dishes? What the hell do I do with an Oxo cube? Starter or no starter? Where the horse meat at? Will I bother with dessert? Will I just secretly go drive-thru on my own and pretend later that I'm not that hungry? Decisions a plenty!
''Where's the sign for the Big Mac''

To make it simple you can apply the principles of decision theory. The trick is to put your decisions in the right order. If you take big decisions first, you eliminate a lot of smaller decisions immediately, hence speeding up the decision making process. So if you chose to buy beef, you immediately eliminate a lot of sauces and sides that would alternatively have gone with a chicken or fish meal.

So whether you go all out and cook the meal of your life, or just end up in front of the TV eating bread straight from the bag - remember, choose the big decision first and then the rest of your plan gets set in motion.

''I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!''  ~ Mark Twain

Thursday, June 27, 2013

If you're not learning science...then shut the hell up!

Struggling to learn something? Can't quite get your head around that theory? That's your problem. . Sometimes I'm truly glad that I did not devote myself to studying science. Because theories are always being changed to account for new observations, they are never properly digested or simplified so that ordinary people can understand them. You have to be a specialist, and even then you can only hope to have a proper grasp of a small proportion of the scientific theories.
Further, the rate of progress is so rapid that what you learn at school or college is always a bit out of date. Only a few people can keep up with the rapidly advancing frontier of knowledge, and they have to devote their whole time to it and specialize in a small area. The rest of the population has little idea of the advances that are being made or the excitement they are generating.
As the biggest library, if it is in disorder - is not as useful as a small but well-arranged one, so you may accumulate a vast amount of knowledge but it will be of far less value than a much smaller amount if you have not thought it over for yourself    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Top 20 Most Dangerous Drugs

It is a fact of life that people have always altered their consciousness and future generations will continue to do so. Drugs are here to stay.

Drugs are a 350 billion dollar industry. Research published in the medical journal the Lancet in 2007, rates the following as the most dangerous drugs. The problem with rank ordering drugs by harm is that some of the drugs are used in combination, however, the following is the order of harm in which science sees 20 of the UK's most dangerous drugs. The ratings were based on the following three factors, 1. What the drug does to the person who takes it. 2. How addictive is the drug. 3. What are the consequences to society.

20) Khat (green leafed shrub): makes you feel alert and energised. It is not particularly addictive or harmful but excessive consumption can lead to insomnia, impotence and high blood pressure.

UK deaths per year: 0    
Price: £4 a bunch

Alkyl Nitrite
19) Alkyl Nitrite : Legal drug. Street names: Poppers, Liquid Gold.

Delivers a short, sharp high and relaxes sphincter muscles. Sniffed straight from the bottle.

Street Price: £2-6 per bottle      UK Users: 400,000      UK Deaths per year: 0 recorded

18) Ecstasy :
MDMA (methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine)
The second half of that word should be a red flag to anyone.
Class A drug.

Street Names: E, Love drug, XTC, Hug Drug.
Street Price: £1-8 a pill
UK Users: 500,000
UK Deaths per year:  27

First synthesized in 1912 by Merck chemist Anton K├Âllisch. it was originally patented to control bleeding from wounds. But in the 1970's it was introduced illegally into the 'dance scene'. Its ranking massively conflicts with its reputation. Hospitals rarely deal with someone presenting with problems with ecstasy. Deaths are usually due to dehydration. It's a stimulant drug and can bring on mild hallucinations. It produces feelings of euphoria, enhanced sociability, empathy & energy and causes increases in body temperature and heart-rate. It affects NMDA Glutamate receptors, and once ingested, it causes the release of the chemical messengers serotonin within the brain which is responsible for regulating mood and memory.
''Most people who take it once, take it again''.
Experts weighing up all the available evidence had little doubt that ecstasy deserved to be no higher than no. 18. All drugs are harmful to a certain extent - even Aspirin, but in terms of the risk to the individual and society, it is nowhere near the other drugs on the list. Thus it seems that it may actually be in the wrong Class.

17) GHB (gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid) : Class C

Street Name: Liquid Ecstasy
Street Price: £5 per dose
UK Users: Not known
UK Deaths per year: 3

As a sedative, a small amount makes you happy, sensual and uninhibited. There are concerns about it being used in 'date-rape', but evidence is quite low, with few cases reporting GHB as being used (because you can smell it, it is not an easy drug to hide). The difference between GHB for 'a buzz' and a dose that can kill you is barely noticeable. When it is mixed with alcohol - it can be fatal.

Anabolic Steroids
16) Anabolic Steroids : Class C drug
Street Price: £20 for 100 tablets   
UK Users: 42,000 in England & Wales  
UK Deaths: per year: 0
It is used for muscle enhancing. Abuse can cause enormous amounts of damage to the individual - from becoming sterile, high risk of liver failure and even strokes or heart attacks. Further, it can lead to increased aggression and acts of violent behaviour, in what is sometimes termed as 'roid rage'.
15) Methylphenidate : Class B 
The active ingredient in drugs such as Ritalin.
Street Name: Vitamin R       
Street Price: £15 a hit      
UK Users: 40,000   
UK Deaths per year: 0 recorded
It is an effective treatment for ADHD sufferers. Used by around 40,000 prescription users. When used illegally, the tablets are crushed and snorted for a quick high. It's a powerful stimulant and abuse can lead to vomiting, convulsions, tremors and delirium.
14) LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) : Class A

Street Names: Lucy, Trips, Paper Mushrooms
Street Price: £1-5 per tab
UK Users: 83,000
UK Deaths per year: No recently recorded deaths

It used to be a prescription drug. Initially developed as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant in the 1930's. Then in a 15 year period beginning in the 1950's, it was prescribed as a psychiatric treatment to over 40,000 schizophrenic patients worldwide. In the 1960's it was taken up by the army who tested it on their troops to see if it could be used in battle to incapacitate the enemy (see below) . Later that decade, LSD leaked out into the recreational market which panicked the establishment and was made an illegal class A drug.

LSD first acts on the brain's serotonin system, the part of the brain responsible for feelings of well-being. It subsequently acts on the pre-frontal cortex which processes some of our uniquely human abstract thoughts. It also seems to reduce communication between different brain areas, leading to a loss of inhibitions and an ability to open up, and the complex neurological effects can result in powerful hallucinations.

Many experts today believe the dangers of LSD are more faction than fact. It's physiologically non-toxic. No one has ever died of an overdose - true one or two people in the 1960's may have jumped out of windows, but that has become a myth ingrained in history.

13) 4MTA (4-Methylthioamphetamine)  : Class A drug.
A man-made drug created to sell purely on the street
as an alternative to ecstasy and is relatively new to the UK.
Street Names: Flat-liner, Golden Eagle.
Street Price: £1-8        
UK Users: Unknown        
UK Deaths per year: 0 recorded
''33 times more powerful than ecstasy''
It's dangers lie in that even though it is a stimulant, it does not produce the euphoric high that ecstasy does. So users take more of it thinking it hasn't worked which can lead to overdose.

12) Solvents : Legal
From glue, to paint, to aerosols

UK Users: 30,000
UK Deaths per year: 50-60 (including first time users)

A lot more dangerous than people realise. The misuse of solvents is widespread. They can be inhaled so they get into the lungs very quickly. Many have toxic chemicals and can have a very toxic effect on the heart. Somewhere between 5 and 20 children per year die of the heart stopping after solvent inhalation.

Scientists placed a mixture of legal and illegal drugs in the bottom half of the chart. But at number 11 they reached a crucial turning point with the U.K's most commonly used illegal drug.

11) Cannabis : Class B

Street Names: Dope, Hash
Street Price: £40-140 per ounce
UK Users: 3 million
UK Deaths per year: 1

When smoked, it hits the brain almost immediately affecting cannabinoid receptors present everywhere in the brain. Small doses lead to euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief. With high doses it can bring on paranoia and short term memory loss. It can also lead to some form of dependency and more recently linked to lung cancer.

Some scientists have explored long term use and psychosis. The THC in cannabis may be linked to psychotic behaviour. This compound is being used to see if it can recreate similar symptoms in healthy volunteers to those suffered by schizophrenics. Schizophrenia is a psychiatric illness in which patients will experience a range of bizarre phenomenon, such as delusions (e.g. that some agency is out to get them) and with subjects often hearing voices.

''For young people it's catastrophic to include into the diet, psychoactive drugs - their brains are still developing and no where near mature'' ~ Marsden, J.

10) Buprenorphine : Class C opiate

Street Names: Subbies, Temmies
Street Price: £2 a dose
UK Users: Unknown
UK Deaths per year: 2

It is normally used for severe pain and as a treatment for heroin dependency (used as an injectable pain killer and when taken orally it can block the effect of heroin). It is used illegally because of its euphoric and hallucinogenic effects. Without medical guidance, it is highly addictive and being a strong opiate - it can very easily lead to an overdose.

9) Tobacco :

Price: €9+ per pack
UK Users: 10 million+
UK Deaths per year: 114,000

The most deadly drug in the UK. It kills one fifth of the population and reduces life expectancy on average by 10 years. It causes 40% of all hospital illnesses and it is one of the most addictive drugs available - and yet it remains legal.

Smoking alone kills more than drugs, alcohol, HIV, suicide, homicide and car crashes combined. Approximately 1 in 3 lifelong smokers will die from smoking. Probably the most addictive substance there is.

The reinforcing actions of nicotine are very similar to those of cocaine and amphetamine. However, the psychopharmacological and behavioural actions of nicotine appear to be much more subtle than those of cocaine. Dependence on nicotine causes a withdrawal syndrome characterized by craving and agitation, reminiscent of but less severe than that experienced by a stimulant abuser in withdrawal.

Cigarettes today are so common that they're molded into the fabric of our daily life.

Instead of the longer and much more intense euphoria of cocaine, the pleasure of nicotine is a desirable but small boost in the sensation of pleasure ("minirush"), followed by a slow decline until the nicotinic receptors switch back on and the smoker takes the next puff or smokes the next cigarette.
8) Amphetamine : Class B

Street Names: Speed, Whizz, Dexies, Billys. 
Street Price: £8-12 a wrap.          
UK Users: 430,000         UK Deaths per year: 35
As a stimulant, it can make the user feel more energetic and confident. When abused, they can become incredibly addictive. As tolerance builds up - consumption increases, leading to paranoia and depression; and with heavy use bringing on panic attacks and violent mood swings.

7) Benzodiazepine : e.g. Valium
Street Names : Benzos, Downers
Street Prices : £1
UK Users: 100,000
UK Deaths per year: 406
They are minor tranquilisers, used for treating anxiety under prescription along with insomnia and seizures. After a few months they can cause dependence and side effects. When illegally abused, they can lead to memory loss, nausea, anxiety and depression. Consumed with alcohol, they are often fatal.

Withdrawal from Benzos is analogous to the withdrawal of heroin. It should not be taken casually.

6) Ketamine : Class C

Street Names: Special K, Vitamin K
Street Prices: £30+ per gram
UK Users: 100,000
UK Deaths per year: 1 recorded

Normally used as a horse tranquilizer, it has very strong pain killing effects - but has become illegally popular because it is a strong hallucinogen. It looks like cocaine and is snorted similarly. Effects include; numbness, altering reality, and dissociation from your surroundings.

It falls into 6th place on this list because in high doses it results in heart failure and even stopped breathing. It's particularly dangerous if it is mixed with any depressant drugs including alcohol. Prolonged use can lead to psychological dependence and psychosis.

5) Alcohol : Legal

Price: £1+
UK Users: 40 million (2 thirds of UK population)
UK Deaths per year: 40,000

More harmful than ecstasy, LSD, tobacco, 5 Class A's and 11 illegal drugs. Something which kills more people than all of the illegal drugs on this list combined. And which is nevertheless used by the majority of the UK population. Around since the earliest days of civilization, alcohol is the biggest public health problem faced today. There are currently over 180,000 alcohol related hospital admissions each year and deaths have nearly doubled in the past decade. Around 40% of Accident and Emergency admissions are down to alcohol and the cost to the NHS is up to £1.7 billion per year and yet the drinking continues.

Another US study attributed over half of all fatal car accidents, homicides and suicides to occur under the influence of alcohol.

It is the only drug that we actively encourage people to use, which we under-price, sell aggressively and yet we pick up the consequences and damage all the time.

Alcohol is a sedative and it's effects are seen on the brain in five minutes. It affects several neurotransmitters, including GABA and also dopamine, which is found in large quantities in the brains reward pathway. Stimulation of this system not only causes pleasure but also gives alcohol its addictive qualities. Alcohol also acts as a depressant and at low doses removes inhibitions making the person more sociable and talkative. As doses increase, speech begins to slur, it effects coordination, and can bring on nausea and vomiting. Long term use can lead to damage of the heart, liver, and stomach.

If alcohol was invented today, it would certainly have a lot more sanctions on it than it currently has. It probably would be even classified up to an A level.

Alcohol can ruin relationships, jeopardise health, and pretty much put your dreams on hold.

4) Street Methadone : Class A

Street Names: The Precious, Slime, Green.
Street Price: £10 per 100ml
UK Users: 33,000 illegal users
UK Deaths per year: 295

''A drug solution to a drug problem'' ~ Loose, R.

An opiate drug similar to heroin, but ''less addictive''. Prescribed medically, it reduces the withdrawal effects of heroin and tends to lead to a reduction in heroin use. A very small amount for someone who is not used to taking it can be fatal. Because there is no rush like heroin, when you take it you can overdose easily without ever feeling high.

80% of people presenting to methadone clinics in Ireland are already Hepatitis C positive
                                                                                                                            ~ Crown, 2013

3) Barbiturates : Class B

Street Names: Pink Ladies, Red Devils
Street Price: £1-2 per tablet
UK Users: Unknown
UK Deaths per year: 20

It used to be prescribed for depression, anxiety and insomnia. When used illicitly, it can make the user feel relaxed, sociable and good humoured. The problem with barbiturates and the reason they place high on the list - if you take an overdose, you are very likely to die. The small difference between a normal dose and an overdose makes them a highly dangerous drug. If you take an overdose of barbiturates, it'd be like taking an overdose of alcohol - they both work on the same parts of the brain to stop you breathing. They're so dangerous that their medical use has dramatically reduced. Nowadays they are only prescribed to treat very severe insomnia.

2) Cocaine : Class A

Street Names: Charlie, Coke, Base
Street Price: £30+ (Powder) / £10+ (Crack Rock)
UK Users: 780,000 in England and Wales alone
UK Deaths per year: 214 recorded deaths

A stimulant drug often associated with glamour, money, and fame. The two kinds of cocaine: the powder form which is snorted and also the rock form 'crack cocaine', which is a smokeable version. 'Crack' delivers a more intense high but for a shorter period of time. It has a 'mainlining' effect and it goes straight to the brain, where it affects the reuptake of dopamine. The most intense high comes from inhaling the cocaine vapour, either by 'freebasing' (heating cocaine with flammable solvents like ether), or using crack; pre-packaged, rock-like chunks of cocaine freebase.

During the 1980's, the use of crack sky-rocketed. It's cheaper, more readily available and provides a high that too many find irresistible. Unlike heroin and methamphetamine, powder cocaine users neither fall into a stupor nor hallucinate. While cocaine that is snorted reaches the brain in 3 to 4 minutes, smoking cocaine provides the fastest and most intense high. It only takes about 8 seconds for the drug to be absorbed into the brain from the lungs. The result: a euphoric state so intense that patients often describe it in sexual terms.

A subjective experience that may follow the euphoria is a sense of "crashing," characterized by craving more cocaine and accompanied by agitation and anxiety, giving way to fatigue, depression, exhaustion, hypersomnolence, and hyperphagia. After several days, if another dose of cocaine is not taken, the chronic abuser may experience other signs of withdrawal, including anergy, decreased interest, anhedonia, and increased cocaine craving.

1) Heroin : Class A
Street Names: Gear, Smack, Brown, Skag
Street Price: £10-20 a bag
UK Users: 300,000
UK Deaths per year: 700

If your homeless, in and out of prison, no job, numerous problems in your life - then heroin use makes absolute sense. Because it's a pain killer, it wraps people in a bubble where the pain of life can't get to you.

Rated the most harmful drug. Either injected or smoked, heroin is used both as a pain killer and as a recreational drug. It works on the reward pathway, which is why it is intensely habit forming. Withdrawal from cocaine may be more psychological, but with heroin withdrawal is extremely physical.

The thoughts of withdrawal is what poisons the outlook of the opiate addict.

When injected it can produce a fast and strong feeling of euphoria, which is akin to an orgasm. It affects Opioid receptors in the brain. One dose can last from 1 to 3 hours. As it effects the part of the brain that controls breathing, an overdose can be fatal.

''It is a drug that has a very fierce dependence liability, once created, the sense of heroin dependence is very difficult to shift'' ~ Marsden, J.
''Whether you sniff it, smoke it, eat it, or shove it up your ass, the result is the same: addiction''
                                                                                                                                                  ~ William S. Burroughs

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Weapon Focus

Weapon Focus refers to an eyewitness’s concentration on a weapon and the resultant reduction in ability to remember other details of the crime. It is expected that the weapon will draw central attention and in a crime where a weapon is involved, it is not unusual for a witness to be able to describe the weapon in much more detail than the person holding it. They are able to report to the police many details about the weapon (its size, its colour, and so on), and often many details about the hand that was holding the weapon (e.g., whether the person was wearing any rings, a watch or a bracelet). However, because of this focus, the witness may have a relatively poor memory for other aspects of the scene, including crucial information such as what the perpetrator looked like. Witnesses tend to get 'fuzzy', many studies show that eyewitness identifications of the perpetrator are systematically less accurate in crimes involving weapons - presumably because the witness's attention was focused on the weapon, not on the perpetrator's face. Thus, eyewitness testimony can be largely affected by the phenomenon.
Loftus et al. (1987) examined this phenomenon by presenting subject-witnesses with a series of slides depicting an event in a fast-food restaurant. Half of the subjects saw a customer point a gun at the cashier; the other half saw him hand the cashier a check. In Experiment 1, eye movements were recorded while subjects viewed the slides. Results showed that subjects made more eye fixations on the weapon than on the check, and fixations on the weapon were of a longer duration than fixations on the check. As a result they were less likely to identify the customer in an identity parade than those who had seen the checkbook version.
In Experiment 2, the memory of subjects in the weapon condition was poorer than the memory of subjects in the check condition: In Experiment 1 similar, though only marginally significant, performance effects were obtained. This study provided the first direct empirical support for weapon focus.
Attorney: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
Witness: We both do.
Attorney: Voodoo?
Witness: We do.
Attorney: You do?
Witness: Yes, voodoo.