Think Inc. Thursdays #008

Some days it feels like all you hear is negative news. Well, today is not that day! Over the past week, we’ve collected some very wholesome news for you. We bring you breakthroughs in the treatment of PTSD and diseased coral, some fantastic new books, and a one of a kind chatbot to talk about existentialism and free will with!

Who knows – maybe it’ll give you better intellectual conversations than your mates can…

If you come across news that everyone should know about, send me a link to it via info@thinkinc.org.au and we might include it in the next edition!

Warm regards,
Suzi

MDMA - NOT JUST A PARTY DRUG?

More research is showing that MDMA can be beneficial in the treatment of PTSD. In a recent study, researchers divided 90 people with severe PTSD into two groups.

One group received MDMA while they did talk therapy with a psychologist, and the other group received a placebo. Two months after treatment, 67% of participants in the MDMA group no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD, compared with only 32% in the placebo group

We already know that MDMA elevates levels of oxytocin, dopamine, and other chemical messengers which produce feelings of empathy, trust, and compassion. Together with talking therapy performed by a specially trained psychologist, MDMA allowed patients to better connect with their trauma.

It should go without saying that it’s not the drug, but the drug-enhanced therapy that improves the condition.

Click here to learn more.

GOING DEEPER THAN EVER BEFORE

Most of you already know that the Challenger Deep (at the southern end of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean) is the ocean’s deepest point, measuring 10,924 metres. But did you know that until recently, the deepest point of the Indian Ocean was contested?

Some claimed it was in the Java Trench, and others believed it was in the fracture zone to the southwest of Australia.

Incredibly, the Five Deeps Expedition were recently able to put the argument to rest (Java won). The team is resolving a number of uncertainties and getting more accurate measurements of the five deepest points of our oceans.

One of their vessels, the Pressure Drop, is currently sailing west of Australia in the Indian Ocean. Aboard the ship is Professor Alan Jamieson, who says that they’re constantly making new discoveries. For example, they discovered jellyfish a whopping 10,000 metres down, squid at 6,5000 metres and a dumbo octopus at almost 7,000 metres.

All these measurements are far deeper than ever recorded.

NINE NASTY WORDS

John McWhorter’s new book, Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Forever is now on sale. It is an in-depth sociological, political, and linguistic exploration of the words we consider truly terrible.

Have you ever wondered why some words are taboo in some parts of the world but not others? For example, why do we Australians and Americans laugh or feel embarrassed when we hear “cock soup”, while in Jamaica no one would bat an eyelid? This is just one of the colourful examples that John discusses in this recent podcast ep on his new book.

Click here to learn more.

ANTIBIOTICS FOR SICK CORAL

Scientists out of Florida have discovered that a widely prescribed antibiotic, amoxicillin, is highly effective at stopping tissue decay in diseased coral.

Researchers applied amoxicillin paste to coral infected with stony coral tissue loss disease or SCTLD. While the antibiotic didn’t completely cure the coral, it gave it a break from getting worse while scientists search for a cause of the disease. There’s also some evidence that once a coral is spot-treated, it may be more resistant to reinfection over time. We hope that this revelation aids our Great Barrier Reef, whose coral has been ravaged by disease outbreaks.

Click here to learn more.

SINGER ON FREEDOM

Peter Singer has written an article for Project Syndicate about the need to keep discussion free, and how pseudonyms may be necessary to do so. For this reason, Peter and his co-editors have allowed the use of pseudonyms in the new Journal of Controversial Ideas, despite criticism for doing so.

Peter answers those criticisms by explaining that some authors face prison, death threats, or losing their job just for exploring controversial ideas. He uses the example of Rebecca Tuvel, whose article in a feminist journal asked why people who strongly support the right to choose one’s gender deny a similar right to choose one’s race. Merely posing the question caused hysteria, with over 800 people, mostly academics, signing a letter that demanded the article be retracted.

Some also called for the dismissal of Tuvel, a young female academic without tenure. This week Peter talked about similar topics on New Zealand’s Q&A, while on ABC Radio he discussed his new translation of Apuleius’s The Golden Ass.

Click here to learn more.

CHATTING WITH SAM HARR-ISH

If you’re a fan of Sam Harris, check this out! There’s now a GPT-3 AI bot version of Sam Harris that you can chat to. The bot supposedly cost $15 million to make, and was trained to sound just like Sam through an 8 year common crawl of the Internet, Reddit-sourced text, a number of books and Wikipedia.

Some of our staff have already tried it, and when they asked if he remembered Suzi, Sam Harr-ish said he had no idea who she was, despite the fact that Think Inc. toured him in 2016! The bot clearly needs some improvement…

Click here to learn more.

Picture of the Week

Amateur underwater photographer, John Magee, says he’s won the lottery with this picture of a rare hairy ghost pipefish.

Magee was diving at Hastings Reef, about 50 kilometres off the cost of Cairns (Northern Australia) when he stumbled across the beautiful creature. The sighting is a positive sign for the Great Barrier Reef’s health.

Magee nicknamed the fish Harry, which we think is a very fitting name.

Click here for more info.