The Independent writes:

[W]hat, if anything, could possibly link minds that gave the world the theory of relativity, great surreal art, iconic comedy, and songs about surfing?

According to new research, psychosis could be the answer.... "There is now a feeling that these traits have survived because they have some adaptive value. To be mildly manic depressive or mildly schizophrenic brings a flexibility of thought, an openness, and risk-taking behaviour, which does have some adaptive value in creativity. The price paid for having those traits is that some will have mental illness."

Research is providing support for the idea that creative people are more likely to have traits associated with mental illness. One study found that the incidence of mood disorders, suicide and institutionalisation to be 20 times higher among major British and Irish poets in the 200 years up to 1800. Other studies have shown that psychiatric patients perform better in tests of abstract thinking.
Wise research, I suppose, to have discovered a fact that any slight student of archaeology or anthropology could have told them. Madness is not only adaptive but widely sought by those societies living at lower levels of technology, whose lives are more keenly balanced between survival and destruction. It is the rare society that did not have some form of mystical vision-seeking, based on suffering or drugs designed to take the mind out of its normal function.

In the West, this took the form of the cults that used ergot beverages, which have been discovered sealed in jars of the greatest antiquity.

A mild madness is merely a way of seeing reality differently. Give a man an alphanumeric string to remember: 24E7Y21P93Q. Then give him a word of the same length: BACCHANALIA. The mind can hold the one only with care and repeated effort: the other it seizes at once.

For a mild autistic, however, the two things may be equally easy to remember. That means that, if we could control that particular form of madness, we could access that function when we needed it. There is really no reason the one set of data should be easier to remember than the other; it is just the way the brain normally works. The brain could work otherwise. What is wanted is the ability to control it, and apply the talent we need.

Likewise, other forms of madness may drop walls to perception. Sometimes these walls are very useful: it can be helpful not to realize how dangerous it is, for example, to drive a car. Dropping that particular wall, as happens sometimes to those who suffer severe car wrecks, can be disabling in normal life. It is best that we can't normally understand just how perilous it is to push a heavy piece of metal to a speed of sixty miles an hour. Yet there may be times when such perceptions are useful, if they can be had for a while. If you could show your teenage son a vision of the thing for just a moment, it might save many a fine young life.

Creativity and madness are surely linked. That means there is a price: if we have bred to have a certain number of Einsteins, we have also bred to have a certain number of gibbering madmen who suffer and can not help themselves. More control is needed, which perhaps will come with greater understanding of the physical mechanisms of the brain.

Models based on an assumption that "normality" is a goal to be striven for, however, are not helpful. What is wanted is not a "normal" mind. What is wanted is the right mind, at the right moment.

Twa Recruiting Sergeants

Tuesday Lyrics (because, why not?) -

Here's a YouTube video of a song I've always liked, "Twa Recruiting Sergeants," pointing up some of the differences past and present in why troops enlist. Pre-Worker's Comp...
Oh, laddie, ye dinna ken the danger that you're in
If your horses was to flag, and your owsen was to rin
The greedy old farmer, he wouldna pay your fee
Sae list my bonnie laddie, and come alang wi' me.
("fleg" = "take fright," "Owsen was to rin" = "ox was to run" - obviously, ways of getting hurt.) A bit of wry humor there, but it fits what Wellington said of his troops, recruited from among "the scum of the earth." - "Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children — some for minor offences — many more for drink; but you can hardly conceive such a set brought together, and it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are." (See this as well.) Or packed neatly into a few lines of song -
With your tattie porin's and your meal and kale,
Your soor sowan' soorin's and your ill-brewed ale,
Your buttermilk, your whey, and your breid fired raw.
Sae list my bonnie laddie and come awa.
Better food and whiskey - now you deploy to pretty decent meals, but everyone eats better at home, and there's GO #1, and DOD policy against "glorification of alcohol," and a substance abuse program to be thrown into - and a population that can afford quite as much as it cares to drink - who would enlist for it? (Wellington saw his troops on the floor of an occupied building between battles, drinking 'til "the wine ran out of their mouths" - imagine it now!)
O, laddie, if you hae a sweetheart or a bairn,
Ye'll be weel rid o' that ill-spun yarn.
Twa rattles tae the drum, and that'll end it a',
Sae list my bonnie laddie and come awa.
In my practice, advising commanders before and troops and spouses facing divorce now, how often I must explain Army Regulation 608-99 - service and deployment are no escape from those obligations; in fact, if there's a court order, the command has to enforce it, and if there isn't, enforce a "stop-gap" payment based on rank. Now, Soldiers who get "chapter fever" will howl to the skies that their recruiters lied to them, but I never yet heard one say he thought he could escape fatherhood by joining up. (And when I explain why we have the reg, I use this two-hundred-year-old cliche as the start point. We don't want that, but we don't want the commanders adjudicating the merits of the marriage, either, so we let the courts sort out the details, and enforce what they say.) In fact, single parenthood is the surest way out of the service, for whoever lacks a family care plan.

So, if the idea gains currency (and it will) that not everyone's right for college, will recruiting end? Of course not - some things don't change, until the human race changes much more - the verses aim for the base, but the chorus calls out something far more thrilling:
It's over the mountain, and over the main.
Through Gibraltar to France and Spain,
Wi' a feather in your bonnet, and a kilt aboon your knee,
List as a soldier, and come awa' wi' me.

Iran strike

Iranian Airstrikes:

We've let the Turks get away with this kind of thing before, so now Iran wants to play:

It is a serious development because the Iraqi airspace is under the control of the US Air Force and under US protection. So the raids are either approved by the United States, as was the case when a US nod was previously given to the Turkish Army, or such operation was a surprise by the Iranians. According to eyewitnesses, the planes were flying at very low altitudes, which may indicate that they were trying to escape detection by radars. So these planes were able to attack many locations. Eyewitnesses and official Kurdish sources said that the raids were carried out by fighter jets and not helicopters.
Exit question:

Which is worse -- the idea that Iran is carrying out airstrikes in defiance of President Obama, or the idea that President Obama is endorsing Iranian airstrikes? Discuss.

Not Exactly Fenris

Are Giant Ravens Next? -

All right, you fantasists, here's a bit of Alaskan prehistory from Not Exactly Rocket Science.

But he forgot to say, "It's not exactly Fenris."


Someone told me
It's all happening at the zoo.
I do believe it,
I do believe it's true.

Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Whoooa. Mmmmm.
Oh yeah, I'm sure that's going to work.

Update and bumped:

Uh-oh. The General is stepping up his rhetoric.

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, has told U.S. officials the next two weeks are critical to determining whether the Pakistani government will survive, FOX News has learned.

So. We have a sort of count-down here, it appears. I think it was Orwell, writing during WWII, who said that "You might not be interested in the war; but the war is interested in you." The President may be about to really understand that sentence. I don't think I've heard Petreaus couch things in such a short time span before. And I don't think the man is given to exaggerating when he says things. This can't be good.