Witnesses from the locals of #Sarmada town, 30 km northeast of #Idleb city, affirmed that unidentified persons and a convoy of three trucks laden with different #chemical #containers had arrived in the city with #terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization earlier this month, the ministry said in a statement quoted by #Russia Today website.
Witnesses said one truck also contained professional video equipment and air and artillery ammunition fragments.
“Terrorists are selecting members of the local population to participate in filming scenes that will be presented as showing the effects of air strikes and the use of toxic substances,” the ministry added.
We live in an era that devalues conformity, while simultaneously preserving it in many interesting ways. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion. Divergent views produce conflict, however, and disagreement, argument, and debate define our current moment.
If we merely disagreed on matters of taste – our favorite color, music, movies, etc. – we could avoid such conflicts. Increasingly, though, we disagree on more fundamental ideas. Some deny the spherical shape of the Earth and the heliocentric model of the solar system (I highly recommend Behind the Curve, a movie about this movement). Arguments of all shapes and sizes spring up everywhere: capitalism vs. socialism, humanity’s role in climate change, on and on.
The democratization of virality amplifies these disagreements. Previously obscure ideas can quickly become widely known. Competing ideological camps endlessly try to score points on one another. The internet rewards this behavior with fame and other social capital. Various forms of what I’ll call “intellectual denial of service” act to reinforce this dynamic. I’ll describe one of these attack vectors in this post.
Say that you stumble upon an idea, X, that contradicts widespread consensus views. X explains something you previously didn’t understand or doubted, in a way that now makes perfect sense. The consensus believers have their own idea, Y. They may have degrees in a relevant field, popular best-selling books, or any number of other indicators of social cachet and expertise.
You take your idea, and you present it to one or more of them as a challenge: “here is why you’re wrong about Y.” They’re likely to respond indignantly, as you’ve just attacked their competence and expertise, perhaps even their livelihoods. Sadly, defensiveness rarely produces the best arguments.
They might quote-tweet you with a snarky comment: “get a load of this rube.” Or maybe they simply ignore you. If you’re lucky, they will attempt to engage with you and present evidence for their beliefs that contradicts your premises. This can go back and forth for a while, but it seldom ends with someone changing their mind.
Once we have publicly attached our name to an idea, the path of least resistance is to continue believing it. We love to preserve self-consistency and hate to admit when we’re wrong. [Insert obligatory list of cognitive biases like confirmation bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect, the availability heuristic, etc.]
Now you each go your separate ways, likely more convinced of each of your positions than before. Triumphant, you post a tweet about your idea and go to bed. When you wake up, you see that others have found your idea compelling. They, too, have decided to confront the other side with X and evidence supporting it. The X crowd inundates the Y crowd with more demands for evidence and challenges of their expertise.
The Y’s may start off by responding politely to each challenger, but they will run out of energy at some point. They’ll say “I’m done talking about X,” or merely shut down and stop responding. Tired of treading over the same ground repeatedly, they simply give up in exhaustion.
This is the ultimate coup! The opposing army has thrown down its arms and the castle is undefended! The conversation becomes more and more one-sided. Lots of proponents of idea X shouting on one side, annoyed silence or open hostility on the Y side.
The bad infinitum cycle has started. As experts in the Y camp become increasingly defensive and hostile, the X camp gains prominence through attrition. Non-experts deride experts as weak, corrupt, or misguided. A feedback loop forms: pro-X people attack the experts, who eventually get exhausted and give up. The pro-X people present this as further evidence for X. More people flock to X based on this supposed victory, and so on. New X proponents rehash the same arguments over and over again, frustrating and bogging down the Y’s. Returning to harmony requires breaking this feedback loop.
Alberto Brandolini, originator of the bullshit asymmetry principle
This dynamic contains an important asymmetry. Far more people can grok simple, intuitive (but wrong) ideas than can grasp nuanced and complex ones in any given field. Something like a Pareto distribution can form, with maybe 20% of people having 80% of the understanding and expertise. Further, if you believe in the Dunning-Kruger effect, experts become increasingly unsure of their expertise as they gain more of it, weakening their defenses.
Quickly, the 80% can overwhelm the 20% with demands for explanations and evidence. Such demands require little effort, while placing a large burden on the other side to carefully craft a counter-argument and assemble available data. Once assembled, counter-arguments may be misinterpreted or simply ignored (remember, this is a conversation between experts and non-experts), representing wasted effort on the part of the expert.
Every minute spent refuting X takes away energy that could be spent refining Y. Experts, rejecting this bargain, concede the commons to non-experts and go back to their own insulated communities. The X crowd cheers with its victory and Veritas, the goddess of truth, weeps.
Anyone familiar with internet denial of service attacks may recognize some similarities here: as unproductive traffic overwhelms available bandwidth, productive requests time out. Wasting intellectual horsepower by refuting bad arguments, experts have less and less time for more productive endeavors.
Bad infinitum is but one form of this attack, and I will cover others in future posts. I hope you’ll bear with me, as I’m likely to spawn even more neologisms in the process 🙂
 [IMG]This virus also known as Senecavirus, mainly affects pigs and cows, but in recent years, it has been found to be able to selectively attack human cancer cells. Its efficacy in eliminating cancerous tumors while ignoring healthy cells was tested in two human clinical trials - the first in relapsed solid tumors in children and the second in lung carcinoma. The problem was that the experiments also found that the patientʼs immune system was fighting the virus and effectively removing it from the body within three weeks, thus preventing it from completing its anticancer action. In an attempt to understand how the virus works, researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand discovered in 2017 that the virus binds to a receptor called ANTXR1, which is active in more than 60 percent of the cancers in humans. ANTXR1, or its full name, Anthrax Toxin Receptor 1, is a receptor that binds to the toxin molecules released by Bacillus anthracis, the cause of Anthrax. It turns out that this receptor appears mainly in human cancer cells, while its second version, ANTXR2, appears mainly in healthy body cells.
In the new study, published in the PNAS journal, researchers have been able to understand why the virus is associated with the "sick" version of the receptor. They used a cryogenic electron microscope to see the link between the virus and the receptor at a resolution of only a few atoms. The researchers compared the molecular structure of the two receptors to understand which part of the ANTXR1 receptor allows it to bind specifically to the virus. After taking about 7,000 pictures, the researchers discovered the critical amino acids that link the receptor to the virus, which differentiates between the two receptors.
The researchers believe that the new discovery allows us to understand in depth how the immune system identifies the virus. They hypothesize that the area used by the virus to bind to the receptor converges with the region of the virus that the immune system antibodies identify and bind to.A thorough understanding of how the immune system antibodies identify the virus will help researchers make small changes in its structure so that it can continue its anticancer activity without the body fighting it. Such a move may be dangerous, as it will improve the virusʼs ability to destroy cancer cells, but also produce a virus that is completely resistant to the immune system, and if it builds up mutations, it might become dangerous.
Another possibility is suppression of the immune system when treating such a virus to prevent it from attacking it. However, such treatment may harm the ability to attack cancer with the help of the immune system itself, as is currently done practiced in immunotherapy or cancer vaccines, which are aided by the natural ability of the immune system to identify tumors and destroy them. Faced with all these challenges, researchers need to combine creativity and discretion to develop the next drug that will eliminate cancer.
Jayawardena, N., Burga, L. N., Easingwood, R. A., Takizawa, Y., Wolf, M., & Bostina, M. (2018). Structural basis for anthrax toxin receptor 1 recognition by Seneca Valley Virus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (46), E10934-E10940.