‘GUEST STARS’
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2106904,00.html
by Michael D. Lemonick / Feb. 16, 2012

When the sun finally dies some 5 billion years from now, the end will come quietly, the conclusion of a long, uneventful life. Our star will, in a sense, go flabby, swelling first, releasing its outer layers into space and finally shrinking into the stellar corpse known as a white dwarf.

Things will play out quite differently for a supermassive star like Eta Carinae, which lies 7,500 light-years from Earth. Weighing at least a hundred times as much as our sun, it will go out more like an adolescent suicide bomber, blazing through its nuclear fuel in a mere couple of million years and exploding as a supernova, a blast so violent that its flash will briefly outshine the entire Milky Way. The corpse this kind of cosmic detonation leaves behind is a black hole. For Eta Carinae, that violent end might not be long in coming, according to a report in the latest Nature. “We know it’s close to the end of its life,” says astronomer Armin Rest of the Space Telescope Science Institute and the lead author of the paper. “It could explode in a thousand years, or it could happen tomorrow.” In astronomical terms, a thousand years might as well be tomorrow; as for a supernova blowing up literally tomorrow, well, that’s almost unheard of.

In 1843 Eta Carinae gave a hint that the end might be near when the hitherto nondescript body flared up to become the second brightest star in the sky, after Sirius. It stayed that way for 20 years or so, then faded and left behind a majestic, billowing cloud of gas known as the Homunculus Nebula. Eta Carinae lost some 10% of its substance in this event, which astronomers now call a “supernova impostor,” after which it has returned to relative quiet — or what passes for quiet in such an unstable object. Astronomers back in the day did the best they could to observe the 20-year flare, but without modern instruments, they couldn’t really learn much. That has frustrated investigators now just as it did then, since studying Eta Carinae in detail could tell them a lot about what caused the outburst and maybe even help them figure out when the inevitable supernova explosion is going to occur.

But as the Nature report makes clear, that understanding may now be at hand. Using a fiendishly clever new observing technique, Rest and his colleagues have been able to take readings of the original blast in real time. “We can look directly at the eruption,” says Princeton astrophysicist Jose Prieto, a co-author of the report, “as it’s never been seen before.” To understand how they did that, start with the basic fact that light from the outburst sped away from Eta Carinae in all directions. Some of it headed straight toward Earth to wow 19th century astronomers. But some of it took a detour, reflecting off dust clouds in interstellar space in what astronomers call a “light echo.” At least a bit of that echo was redirected toward Earth. The dust clouds were so far from the star that the long-delayed light is only now reaching us, and unlike in 1843, we now have the instruments to study it.

It gets even better. The 1843 flare-up played out over 20 years, which means the light-echo version will do the same. “We took observations nine months ago,” says Rest, “and we were looking at 1843. Now we’re looking at 1844. It’s like a movie. It’s really cool.” (Of course, the images are from 7,500 years before 1843 and ’44, since that’s when the stellar event occurred; it just took 7½ millennia for the light to reach us.) Better still, astronomers can see light echoes from a variety of dust clouds, at varying distances from the star. That creates detours of varying lengths, so they can see different phases of the eruption all at once.

“The big puzzle,” says Prieto, “is what caused the outburst. This star has been studied to death with all sorts of telescopes, but no one theory has ever been able to tell us what happened.” It might have been some sort of instability deep within the star itself, or the blast might have been triggered by matter dumped on Eta Carinae by a stellar companion. The good news is that the light-echo observations will give theorists a trove of information to work with — and in the next few years, says Rest, “we’ll be getting more observations, and they’ll keep getting better.”

If Eta Carinae is going to blow imminently, the obvious question is whether Earth is in mortal danger. Fortunately, the answer is no. At 7,500 light-years, the intense radiation from even a powerful supernova would lose its punch by the time it reaches us. All we’ll experience is the most spectacular light show in many centuries. The last confirmed supernova explosion in the Milky Way happened in 1604, a teasingly close five years before Galileo pointed his first, primitive telescope skyward. It is, in short, about time for another big blast, and even though the theorists haven’t weighed in, Rest has reason for hope. “There was one of these ‘supernova imposters’ in another galaxy,” he says — something similar to Eta Carinae’s 1843 outburst. “And then, a few years later … kaboom!”

SECOND SUN
http://io9.com/5738542/earth-may-soon-have-a-second-sun
Earth may soon have a second sun
by Alasdair Wilkens / Jan 20, 2011

The red supergiant star Betelgeuse is getting ready to go supernova, and when it does Earth will have a front-row seat. The explosion will be so bright that Earth will briefly seem to have two suns in the sky.

The star is located in the Orion constellation, about 640 light-years away from Earth. It’s one of the brightest and biggest stars in our galactic neighborhood – if you dropped it in our Solar System, it would extend all the way out to Jupiter, leaving Earth completely engulfed. In stellar terms, it’s predicted to explode in the very near future. Of course, the conversion from stellar to human terms is pretty extreme, as Betelgeuse is predicted to explode anytime in the next million years. But still, whether the explosion occurs in 2011 or 1002011 (give or take 640 years for the light to reach Earth), it’s going to make for one of the most unforgettable light shows in our planet’s history. For a few weeks, the supernova will be so bright that there will appear to be two stars in the sky, and night will be indistinguishable from day for much of that time. So don’t count on getting a lot of sleep when Betelgeuse explodes, because the only sensible thing for the world to do will be to throw a weeks-long global supernova party.

Physicist Brad Carter explains what Earth (and hopefully humanity) can look forward to:

“This is the final hurrah for the star. It goes bang, it explodes, it lights up – we’ll have incredible brightness for a brief period of time for a couple of weeks and then over the coming months it begins to fade and then eventually it will be very hard to see at all.”

Although there’ll be no missing the explosion, Carter points out that the vast majority of material shot out from the supernova will pass by Earth completely unnoticed:

“When a star goes bang, the first we will observe of it is a rain of tiny particles called neutrinos. They will flood through the Earth and bizarrely enough, even though the supernova we see visually will light up the night sky, 99 per cent of the energy in the supernova is released in these particles that will come through our bodies and through the Earth with absolutely no harm whatsoever.”

Indeed, just in case anyone is concerned, Betelgeuse is way too far away from Earth to do us any damage. There’s been some doomsday speculation of late around the eventual supernova – which might not happen for a million years, it bears repeating – but, as with pretty much all doomsday speculation, you can just ignore it. In any event, the Betelgeuse explosion will likely be the most dramatic supernova Earth ever witnesses – well, unless our Sun eventually explodes and destroys our planet, which would probably leave Betelgeuse the runner-up. Either way, it isn’t the first, as history has recorded the appearance of several so-called “guest stars.” Most of these just looked like short-lived stars in the night sky, but some were bright enough to be seen in the day.

The first supernova that history records is thought to have occurred in 185 CE, when a star 8,200 light-years away exploded. Chinese astronomers make explicit note of the sudden appearance of a star and its subsequent disappearance several months later, and the Romans may also have made more cryptic references to it. Astronomers have since located the remnants of the exploded star, confirming the accuracy of the ancient accounts.

The two most dramatic supernova explosions occurred in the 11th century. A supernova in 1006 – you can see its modern remnant above – is the brightest star ever recorded, appearing in the records of China, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland. There’s even some thought that a rock painting by the Hohokam, a Native American tribe in what is now Arizona, represents the first recorded sighting of a supernova in the Americas. Here’s the petroglyph in question, which might well record the presence of an unexpected bright light in the sky:

The various observations even allow us to pinpoint what specific type of supernova it was. In all likelihood, it was a Type Ia supernova, which for a few weeks burn as brightly as five billion suns. Astronomer Frank Winkler explains that we can work out from that supposition:

“By knowing this distance and the standard luminosity of Ia supernovae, we can calculate, in retrospect, just how bright the star must have appeared to 11th century observers. On the magnitude scale used by astronomers, it was about minus 7.5, which puts its brightness a little less than halfway between that of Venus and that of the full Moon. And all that light would have been concentrated in a single star, which must have been twinkling like crazy. There’s no doubt that it would have been a truly dazzling sight. In the spring of 1006, people could probably have read manuscripts at midnight by its light.”

The supernova of 1054 wasn’t quite as dramatic, and it seemed to go almost entirely unrecorded in Europe, although there’s some thought that records of the new star made by Irish monks got corrupted into allegorical accounts of the Antichrist. Still, the rest of the world saw it just fine, with records popping up in China, Japan, Korea, Persia, and the Americas. Astronomers of the time period wrote that it could be seen in daylight for over three weeks and remained visible in the night sky for nearly two years.

A pair of supernovas in 1572 and 1604 were extensively studied by two generations of legendary astronomers, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. Since then, the Milky Way hasn’t had any supernovas visible from Earth, and so our night sky has remained rather tediously ordinary.

There’s about sixteen known candidates in our galaxy for a future supernova explosion, and quite a few of them would have a dramatic effect on our skies. But Betelgeuse is by far one of the closest, and its huge size means its explosion will be particularly dramatic. This is one cosmic disaster that we actually want to see happen sooner than later, because there may never be a sight quite like this ever again.

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FELINE AIDS RESEARCH
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/sep/11/genetically-modified-glowing-cats
Glow cat: fluorescent green felines could help study of HIV
Scientists hope cloning technique that produced genetically modified cats will aid human and feline medical research
by Alok Jha / 11 September 2011

It is a rite of passage for any sufficiently advanced genetically modified animal: at some point scientists will insert a gene that makes you glow green. The latest addition to this ever-growing list – which includes fruit flies, mice, rabbits and pigs – is the domestic cat. US researcher Eric Poeschla has produced three glowing GM cats by using a virus to carry a gene, called green fluorescent protein (GFP), into the eggs from which the animals eventually grew. This method of genetic modification is simpler and more efficient than traditional cloning techniques, and results in fewer animals being needed in the process. The GFP gene, which has its origins in jellyfish, expresses proteins that fluoresce when illuminated with certain frequencies of light. Poeschla, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, reported his results in the journal Nature Methods. This function is regularly used by scientists to monitor the activity of individual genes or cells in a wide variety of animals. The development and refinement of the GFP technique earned its scientific pioneers the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2008.

In the case of the glowing cats, the scientists hope to use the GM animals in the study of HIV/Aids. “Cats are susceptible to feline immunodeficiency virus [FIV], a close relative of HIV, the cause of Aids,” said professors Helen Sang and Bruce Whitelaw of the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, where scientists cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996. “The application of the new technology suggested in this paper is to develop the use of genetically-modified cats for the study of FIV, providing valuable information for the study of Aids. “This is potentially valuable but the uses of genetically modified cats as models for human diseases are likely to be limited and only justified if other models – for example in more commonly used laboratory animals, like mice and rats – are not suitable.” Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, head of developmental genetics at the Medical Research Council’s national institute for medical research, said: “Cats are one of the few animal species that are normally susceptible to such viruses, and indeed they are subject to a pandemic, with symptoms as devastating to cats as they are to humans. “Understanding how to confer resistance is … of equal importance to cat health and human health.”

THAT GLOW GREEN
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20896-glowing-transgenic-cats-could-boost-aids-research.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news
Glowing transgenic cats could boost AIDS research
by Andy Coghlan / 11 September 2011

Three cats genetically modified to resist feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) have opened up new avenues for AIDS research. The research could also help veterinarians combat the virus, which kills millions of feral cats each year and also infects big cats, including lions. Prosaically named TgCat1, TgCat2 and TgCat3, the GM cats – now a year old – glow ghostly green under ultraviolet light because they have been given the green fluorescent protein (GFP) geneMovie Camera originating from jellyfish. The GM cats also carry an extra monkey gene, called TRIMCyp, which protects rhesus macaques from infection by feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV – responsible for cat AIDS. By giving the gene to the cats, the team hopes to offer the animals protection from FIV. Their study could help researchers develop and test similar approaches to protecting humans from infection with HIV.

Cat immunity
Already, the researchers have demonstrated that lab cultures of white blood cells from the cats are protected from FIV, and they hope to give the virus to the cats to check whether they are immune to it. “The animals clearly have the protective gene expressed in all their tissues including the lymph nodes, thymus and spleen,” says Eric Poeschla of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, who led the research. “That’s crucial because that’s where the disease really happens, and where you see destruction of T-cells targeted by HIV in humans.” The animals are not the first GM cats, but the new method is far more efficient and versatile than previous techniques. The first cloned cat, born in 2001, was the only one to survive from 200 embryos, each created by taking an ear cell from cats, removing the nucleus and fusing it with a cat egg cell emptied of its own nucleus. Poeschla’s technique is far more direct, far more efficient and far simpler, and has already been used successfully to make GM mice, pigs, cows and monkeys. He loads genes of interest into a lentivirus, which he then introduces directly into a cat oocyte, or egg cell. The oocyte loaded with the new genes is then fertilised and placed in the womb of a foster mother. From 22 implantations, Poeschla achieved 12 fetuses in five pregnancies, and three live births. And out of the 12 fetuses, 11 successfully incorporated the new genes, demonstrating how efficient the method is. One surviving male kitten, TgCat1, has already mated with three normal females, siring eight healthy kittens that all carry the implanted genes as well, showing that they are inheritable. But there are doubts about whether cats will replace monkeys as the staples of HIV research. “It’s fantastic they’ve created GM cats,” says Theodora Hatziioannou of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York City. “But what makes research in monkeys so much better is that SIV in monkeys is much more closely related to HIV, so it’s more straightforward to draw conclusions than it would be with FIV.

 

THAT GLOW RED
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/05/photogalleries/glowing-animal-pictures#/cats-cloned-glowing-animals_11832_600x450.jpg
May 14, 2009 / Photo by Choi Byung-kil/Yonhap via AP

How does it glow?
Red fluorescent protein, introduced via a virus into cloned DNA, which was implanted in cat eggs, then implanted in mother (2007)

What can we learn?
Scientists at Gyoengsang National University in South Korea both cloned a Turkish Angora house cat and made it fluorescent—as shown in the glowing cat (left) photographed in a dark room under ultraviolet light. (The nonfluorescent cat, at right, appears green in these conditions.) The scientists weren’t the first to clone a cat–they weren’t even the first to clone a fluorescent cat. But they were the first to clone a cat that fluoresces red. It’s hoped that the red glow, which appears in every organ of the cats, will improve the study of genetic diseases.


CONTACT
Eric Poeschla
http://mayoresearch.mayo.edu/mayo/research/poeschla/
http://mayoresearch.mayo.edu/staff/poeschla_em.cfm
email : Poeschla.Eric [at] mayo [dot] edu

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.nature.com/nmeth/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nmeth.1703.html
http://www.mayoclinic.org/news2011-rst/6434.html
Mayo Clinic Teams with Glowing Cats Against AIDS, Other Diseases
New Technique Gives Cats Protection Genes / September 11, 2011

Mayo Clinic researchers have developed a genome-based immunization strategy to fight feline AIDS and illuminate ways to combat human HIV/AIDS and other diseases. The goal is to create cats with intrinsic immunity to the feline AIDS virus. The findings — called fascinating and landmark by one reviewer — appear in the current online issue of Nature Methods. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) causes AIDS in cats as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) does in people: by depleting the body’s infection-fighting T-cells. The feline and human versions of key proteins that potently defend mammals against virus invasion — termed restriction factors — are ineffective against FIV and HIV respectively. The Mayo team of physicians, virologists, veterinarians and gene therapy researchers, along with collaborators in Japan, sought to mimic the way evolution normally gives rise over vast time spans to protective protein versions. They devised a way to insert effective monkey versions of them into the cat genome. “One of the best things about this biomedical research is that it is aimed at benefiting both human and feline health,” says Eric Poeschla, M.D., Mayo molecular biologist and leader of the international study. “It can help cats as much as people.”

Dr. Poeschla treats patients with HIV and researches how the virus replicates. HIV/AIDS has killed over 30 million people and left countless children orphaned, with no effective vaccine on the horizon. Less well known is that millions of cats also suffer and die from FIV/AIDS each year. Since the project concerns ways introduced genes can protect species against viruses, the knowledge and technology it produces might eventually assist conservation of wild feline species, all 36 of which are endangered. The technique is called gamete-targeted lentiviral transgenesis — essentially, inserting genes into feline oocytes (eggs) before sperm fertilization. Succeeding with it for the first time in a carnivore, the team inserted a gene for a rhesus macaque restriction factor known to block cell infection by FIV, as well as a jellyfish gene for tracking purposes. The latter makes the offspring cats glow green.

The macaque restriction factor, TRIMCyp, blocks FIV by attacking and disabling the virus’s outer shield as it tries to invade a cell. The researchers know that works well in a culture dish and want to determine how it will work in vivo. This specific transgenesis (genome modification) approach will not be used directly for treating people with HIV or cats with FIV, but it will help medical and veterinary researchers understand how restriction factors can be used to advance gene therapy for AIDS caused by either virus. The method for inserting genes into the feline genome is highly efficient, so that virtually all offspring have the genes. And the defense proteins are made throughout the cat’s body. The cats with the protective genes are thriving and have produced kittens whose cells make the proteins, thus proving that the inserted genes remain active in successive generations.

The other researchers are Pimprapar Wongsrikeao, D.V.M., Ph.D.; Dyana Saenz, Ph.D.; and Tommy Rinkoski, all of Mayo Clinic; and Takeshige Otoi, Ph.D., of Yamaguchi University, Japan. The research was supported by Mayo Clinic and the Helen C. Levitt Foundation. Grants from the National Institutes of Health supported key prior technology developments in the laboratory.


A ‘glow in the dark’ kitten viewed under a special blue light, next to a non-modified cat. Both cats’ fur looks the same under regular light. {Photograph: Mayo Clinic}

TIGHTLY ORBITING a PULSAR
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/25/us-planet-diamond-idUSTRE77O69A20110825
Astronomers discover planet made of diamond
by Ben Hirschler / Aug 25, 2011

Astronomers have spotted an exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond racing around a tiny star in our galactic backyard. The new planet is far denser than any other known so far and consists largely of carbon. Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond. “The evolutionary history and amazing density of the planet all suggest it is comprised of carbon — i.e. a massive diamond orbiting a neutron star every two hours in an orbit so tight it would fit inside our own Sun,” said Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. Lying 4,000 light years away, or around an eighth of the way toward the center of the Milky Way from the Earth, the planet is probably the remnant of a once-massive star that has lost its outer layers to the so-called pulsar star it orbits. Pulsars are tiny, dead neutron stars that are only around 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) in diameter and spin hundreds of times a second, emitting beams of radiation. In the case of pulsar J1719-1438, the beams regularly sweep the Earth and have been monitored by telescopes in Australia, Britain and Hawaii, allowing astronomers to detect modulations due to the gravitational pull of its unseen companion planet.

The measurements suggest the planet, which orbits its star every two hours and 10 minutes, has slightly more mass than Jupiter but is 20 times as dense, Bailes and colleagues reported in the journal Science on Thursday. In addition to carbon, the new planet is also likely to contain oxygen, which may be more prevalent at the surface and is probably increasingly rare toward the carbon-rich center. Its high density suggests the lighter elements of hydrogen and helium, which are the main constituents of gas giants like Jupiter, are not present. Just what this weird diamond world is actually like close up, however, is a mystery. “In terms of what it would look like, I don’t know I could even speculate,” said Ben Stappers of the University of Manchester. “I don’t imagine that a picture of a very shiny object is what we’re looking at here.”

DIAMONDS are FOREVER
http://news.discovery.com/space/diamond-planet-110825.html
by Irene Klotz / Aug 25, 2011

Astronomers have found the remains of a once-massive star, now transformed into a solid diamond five times bigger than Earth. The object circles a pulsing companion star about 4,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Serpens (The Snake), which lies about one-eighth of the way toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers noticed that the steady pulses of energy coming from the star, known as J1719-1438, were regularly and minutely disturbed, a phenomenon caused by the gravitational tug of another, smaller circling object. By measuring the pattern, scientists were able to figure out how far away the second object circles and its mass, leading to the realization that they had found a bizarre binary system, with one partner reduced to a diamond core. “In this case, something with the mass of our sun has evolved to be something the mass of a planet — quite extraordinary,” astronomer Michael Keith, with the Australia Telescope National Facility, wrote in an email to Discovery News. The companion to J1719-1438 never got big enough to produce elements much heavier than carbon, so after its lighter-weight hydrogen and helium were stripped away that would leave a solid core of carbon — diamond. “Due to the immense pressure, the carbon will be in a dense crystal-like structure, although much more closely packed than in a diamond on Earth,” Keith said.

The system is now stable, with no evidence that it will change for billions of years. “Of course, this also means that it could well have been around for a long time, just waiting for us to find it. Since it’s likely to last for longer than the Earth or the sun, I would say that in this case, a diamond really is forever,” Keith said. The diamond planet was found as part of an ongoing search for pulsating stars, known as pulsars, which scientists like to use as probes. “We’d like to find a pulsar with a black hole companion,” Michael Kramer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, told Discovery News. “It’s the exotic case that tell us most about the laws of physics and what’s going on in the universe.”

STRIPPED to the CORE
http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2011/08/neutron-star-has-turned-its-companion-into-a-planet-of-diamond.ars
Pulsar strips a white dwarf, leaves a Jupiter-sized diamond
by John Timmer / August 25 2011

Neutron stars form from the core of a collapsing star and, as the supernova dissipates, often rotate rapidly, creating a pulsar. In less than a million years, however, their strong magnetic fields act as a brake, slowing them down considerably. In some cases, however, the neutron star will have a nearby companion, and its gravity is sufficient to start stripping mass off it. As the process continues, the neutron star will spin back up, creating what’s called a millisecond pulsar. In most cases, these companions are still around, visible as a bright star locked in an orbital embrace with a pulsar. Now, researchers have spotted one where the star is still there, but not visible—the neutron star has stripped it down to a crystaline core the size of Jupiter.

The system in question, which has the catchy name PSR J1719−1438, was identified in a recent survey for pulsars. Careful timing observations revealed the influence of a nearby companion—very nearby, given that it orbited the neutron star with a period of only a bit over two hours. Given the orbital information and the typical mass of a neutron star, the authors were able to estimate that the orbiting body has a mass somewhere around that of Jupiter. But that mass must be highly compact; otherwise, given the limited distance between the two, the neutron star would end up gravitationally disrupting its companion. The same goes for a helium-rich white dwarf star. The only thing that the authors calculate could fit into this uncomfortably close orbital configuration is a carbon white dwarf. So, they conclude that the “planet” orbiting the neutron star is simply the core of its previous stellar companion, stripped of most of its mass through the process that spun up the pulsar. And, in the last sentence of the paper, they drop a bit of a bombshell: “The chemical composition, pressure and dimensions of the companion make it certain to be crystallized (i.e., diamond).”

About 30 percent of the millisencond pulsars we know about don’t have a stellar companion, which raises the possibility that there are other Jupiter-mass diamonds out there awaiting our discovery. However, other fates are possible; a bit closer, and the companion star would have been devoured completely, leaving no remnant at all. And, in at least one case, a companion star seems to have been torn apart in a way converting it into a disk that has formed three planets that now orbit the neutron star. With further observations, we should get a better sense of how common these odd companions are—and possibly find something else that’s even stranger.

Science, 2011. DOI: 10.1126/science.1208890.

1031 CARAT
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20832-astrophile-the-diamond-as-big-as-a-planet.html
A diamond as big as a planet
by David Shiga / 25 August 2011

Cruising through the Milky Way in your reconnaissance craft, your sensors pick up a powerful radio beacon. Altering your course to take a closer look, you find not a ship in distress, but an ultradense sphere of neutrons, packing a sun’s worth of mass into something the size of a city. This dead remnant of a star glows red like a hot ember, and is spinning 173 times per second, emitting powerful radio beams that sweep across the sky as it rotates. While such pulsars are striking, they are nothing out of the ordinary, so you are about to resume your original course when your eye catches something sparkling near the dim red glow. A closer look reveals it to be an orb with the mass of Jupiter and about half as wide. Sensors indicate it’s made of – wait, this can’t be right – diamond! Your instruments don’t lie. You’ve just stumbled upon a 1031-carat diamond.

Glitter ball
Fanciful as it may sound, a team led by Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia may have made a similar discovery – via telescope, not a starship. Their radio survey of the sky detected the pulsar in December 2009, using the CSIRO Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. A month later, follow-up observations with the Lovell radio telescope in Cheshire, UK, revealed periodic variations in the pulsar’s signals, indicating the existence of an orbiting companion with the mass of a planet.

That in itself was a rare find: of the 1800 or so pulsars known, only two had previously been found to harbour planets. Further analysis pointed to an even more astonishing possibility – a diamond planet. The variations in the pulsar’s signals, which stem from the planet’s gravity tugging on the pulsar, revealed that the planet’s mass is roughly equal to Jupiter’s and that it orbits the pulsar at a distance of 600,000 kilometres, 1.5 times the distance of the moon from Earth.

Danger zone
The latter point is crucial. The planet orbits so close to the pulsar that it skirts the danger zone within which the star’s gravity would rip it apart. Wait a minute, though. If it were a gas giant the size of Jupiter, part of its atmosphere would actually be inside the gravitational destruction zone, and the planet would not have survived long enough for Bailes’s team to detect it. So it must be less than about 60,000 kilometres in diameter, roughly 40 per cent of Jupiter’s width. That in turn means it is much more compact than Jupiter, which has an average density only slightly greater than water. The extremely fast rotation of the pulsar supports this conclusion. Pulsars that rotate many times each second are thought to spin up to such tremendous speeds as a result of stealing matter from a companion star. But there is no sign of such a massive companion today, so the planet is likely all that’s left of a star that was whittled down by the pulsar.

Hard-core bling
The core of a stripped down star would be mostly carbon, with a dash of oxygen. With the mass of Jupiter, such an object would be under high pressure because of its own gravity. And this would cause it to crystallise – most likely into diamond, just as carbon does deep inside the Earth. If it is a diamond, does the planet glitter like an Earthly gem? “It’s highly speculative, but if you shine a light on it, I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t sparkle like a diamond,” says Travis Metcalfe of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. He previously found a white dwarf – the remnant of an old star – with a carbon-crystal core that was under higher pressure than the new planet, producing a crystalline structure distinct from diamond. Moshe Mosbacher, president of the Diamond Dealers Club in New York says he has “no clue” how much a diamond of this size would fetch, without first knowing its quality. But he is intrigued. “If there’s some way to transport it to New York and cut it, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s from inner space or outer space.”

LIQUID DIAMOND OCEANS (POSSIBLE) ON URANUS, NEPTUNE
http://news.discovery.com/space/diamond-oceans-jupiter-uranus.html
by Eric Bland / Jan 15, 2010

Oceans of liquid diamond, filled with solid diamond icebergs, could be floating on Neptune and Uranus, according to a recent article in the journal Nature Physics. The research, based on the first detailed measurements of the melting point of diamond, found diamond behaves like water during freezing and melting, with solid forms floating atop liquid forms. The surprising revelation gives scientists a new understanding about diamonds and some of the most distant planets in our solar system. “Diamond is a relatively common material on Earth, but its melting point has never been measured,” said J. H. Eggert of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. “You can’t just raise the temperature and have it melt, you have to also go to high pressures, which makes it very difficult to measure the temperature.”

Other groups, notably scientists from Sandia National Laboratories, successfully melted diamond years ago, but they were unable to measure the pressure and temperature at which the diamond melted. Diamond is an incredibly hard material. That alone makes it difficult to melt. But diamond has another quality that makes it even harder to measure its melting point. Diamond doesn’t like to stay diamond when it gets hot. When diamond is heated to extreme temperatures it physically changes, from diamond to graphite. The graphite, and not the diamond, then melts into a liquid. The trick for the scientists was to heat the diamond up while simultaneously stopping it from transforming into graphite.

Eggert and his colleagues took a small, natural, clear diamond, about a tenth of a carat by weight and half a millimeter thick, and blasted it with lasers at ultrahigh pressures like those found on gas giants like Neptune and Uranus. The scientists liquefied the diamond at pressures 40 million times greater than what a person feels when standing at sea level on Earth. From there they slowly reduced the temperature and pressure. When the pressure dropped to about 11 million times the atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth and the temperature dropped to about 50,000 degrees, solid chunks of diamond began to appear. The pressure kept dropping, but the temperature of the diamond remained the same, with more and more chunks of diamond forming. Then the diamond did something unexpected. The chunks of diamond didn’t sink. They floated. Microscopic diamond ice burgs floated in a tiny sea of liquid diamond. The diamond was behaving like water.

With most materials, the solid state is more dense than the liquid state. Water is an exception to that rule; when water freezes, the resulting ice is actually less dense than the surrounding water, which is why the ice floats and fish can survive a Minnesota winter. An ocean of diamond could help explain the orientation of Uranus’ and Neptune’s magnetic field as well, said Eggert. Roughly speaking, the Earth’s magnetic poles match up with the geographic poles. The magnetic and geographic poles on Uranus and Neptune do not match up; in fact, they can be up to 60 degrees off of the north-south axis. If Earth’s magnetic field were that far off it would place the magnetic north pole in Texas instead of off a Canadian island. A swirling ocean of liquid diamond could be responsible for the discrepancy.

Up to 10 percent of Uranus and Neptune is estimated to be made from carbon. A huge ocean of liquid diamond in the right place could deflect or tilt the magnetic field out of alignment with the rotation of the planet. The idea that there are oceans of liquid diamond on Neptune and Uranus is not a new idea, said Tom Duffy, a planetary scientist at Princeton University. The new Nature Physics article makes diamond oceans “look more and more plausible,” said Duffy. More research on the composition of Neptune and Uranus is needed before a truly definitive conclusion can be made, however, and this kind of research is very difficult to conduct. Scientists can either send spacecraft to these planets, or they can try to simulate the conditions on Earth. Both options require years of preparation, expensive equipment, and are subject to some of the toughest environments in the universe.

DIAMOND GAS
http://news.discovery.com/space/neutron-star-diamond-atmosphere.html

Astronomers have just solved a decade-old mystery that explains the unusual behavior of a neutron star — the dense, hot corpse left behind after a massive stellar explosion — at the center of the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant. It wasn’t the X-rays streaming from the center of the supernova remnant that astronomers found puzzling. It’s why the beams weren’t pulsating as expected. Now the scientists know why: The neutron star is covered with a thin atmosphere of carbon, which acts like a giant bulb to smooth light in all directions. The findings help to illustrate the extreme nature of these entities. “The carbon is unique,” Wynn Ho, a researcher with the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, told Discovery News. “The neutron stars that have been detected with atmosphere have evolved with hydrogen, and that’s what we’d expect because hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe.” Scientists believe the neutron star in Cassiopeia A is so young and hot that in addition to fusing hydrogen to form helium, the surface of the star is fusing helium into carbon.

Computer models show the carbon veil to be extremely thin — up to just four inches thick — due to the immense gravitational pull of the neutron star, which is about one billion times stronger than Earth’s gravity. Though the shroud is as dense as diamonds, the star’s 3.6 million-degree Fahrenheit temperature would keep the atmosphere gaseous. “It’s incredibly hot, so it’s still a gas,” said Peter Edmonds, with the Chandra X-ray Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. irect observations of the neutron star’s atmosphere are not possible with today’s technology, given its distance and other factors, but scientists are on the lookout for other young neutron stars that may also sport carbon shells. Being based on computer models, the finding isn’t ironclad, added Edmonds, “but it’s a strong case.” Cassiopeia A’s neutron star also serves as proverbial lab rat for physicists wondering what sort of exotic matter exists inside. “We’re using it to study the neutron star interior to determine whether its interior is made of superconducting material or quark matter. You can determine this based on its temperature and its age,” Ho said. “Any exotic matter will determine how rapidly it cools over time.”

TARGETING SECTOR THREE
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/06/15/1105315108.abstract
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576397491582757396.html#project%3DTARGETING_HIV3
http://online.wsj.com/video/news-hub-wall-st-tool-has-success-in-aids-fight/C4322662-F312-4BF8-9160-737DFE01BF02.html
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576397491582757396.html
New Math in HIV Fight
by Mark Schoofs / June 21, 2011

Scientists using a powerful mathematical tool previously applied to the stock market have identified an Achilles heel in HIV that could be a prime target for AIDS vaccines or drugs. The research adds weight to a provocative hypothesis—that an HIV vaccine should avoid a broadside attack and instead home in on a few targets. Indeed, there is a rare group of patients who naturally control HIV without medication, and these “elite controllers” most often assail the virus at precisely this vulnerable area. “This is a wonderful piece of science, and it helps us understand why the elite controllers keep HIV under control,” said Nobel laureate David Baltimore. Bette Korber, an expert on HIV mutation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the study added “an elegant analytical strategy” to HIV vaccine research. “What would be very cool is if they could apply it to hepatitis C or other viruses that are huge pathogens—Ebola virus, Marburg virus,” said Mark Yeager, chair of the physiology department at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “The hope would be there would be predictive power in this approach.” Drs. Baltimore, Korber and Yeager weren’t involved in the new research.

One of the most vexing problems in HIV research is the virus’s extreme mutability. But the researchers found that there are some HIV sectors, or groups of amino acids, that rarely make multiple mutations. Scientists generally believe that the virus needs to keep such regions intact. Targeting such sectors could trap HIV: If it mutated, it would disrupt its own internal machinery and sputter out. If it didn’t mutate, it would lie defenseless against a drug or vaccine attack. The study was conducted at the Ragon Institute, a joint enterprise of Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. The institute was founded in 2009 to convene diverse groups of scientists to work on HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

Two of the study’s lead authors aren’t biologists. Arup Chakraborty is a professor of chemistry and chemical engineering at MIT, though he has worked on immunology, and Vincent Dahirel is an assistant professor of chemistry at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. They collaborated with Bruce Walker, a longtime HIV researcher who directs the Ragon Institute. Their work was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. To find the vulnerable sectors in HIV, Drs. Chakraborty and Dahirel reached back to a statistical method called random matrix theory, which has also been used to analyze the behavior of stocks. While stock market sectors are already well defined, the Ragon researchers didn’t necessarily know what viral sectors they were looking for. Moreover, they wanted to take a fresh look at the virus. So they defined the sectors purely mathematically, using random matrix theory to sift through most of HIV’s genetic code for correlated mutations, without reference to previously known functions or structures of HIV. The segment that could tolerate the fewest multiple mutations was dubbed sector 3 on an HIV protein known as Gag. Previous research by Dr. Yeager and others had shown that the capsid, or internal shell, of the virus has a honeycomb structure. Part of sector 3, it turns out, helps form the edges of the honeycomb. If the honeycomb suffered too many mutations, it wouldn’t interlock, and the capsid would collapse.

For years, Dr. Walker had studied rare patients, about one in 300, who control HIV without taking drugs. He went back to see what part of the virus these “elite controllers” were attacking with their main immune-system assault. The most common target was sector 3. Dr. Walker’s team found that even immune systems that fail to control HIV often attack sector 3, but they tend to devote only a fraction of their resources against it, while wasting their main assault on parts of the virus that easily mutate to evade the attack. That suggested what the study’s authors consider the paper’s most important hypothesis: A vaccine shouldn’t elicit a scattershot attack, but surgical strikes against sector 3 and similarly low-mutating regions of HIV. “The hypothesis remains to be tested,” said Dan Barouch, a Harvard professor of medicine and a colleague at the Ragon institute. He is planning to do just that, with monkeys. Others, such as Oxford professor Sir Andrew McMichael, are also testing it. The Ragon team’s research focused on one arm of the immune system—the so-called killer T-cells that attack other cells HIV has already infected. Many scientists believe a successful HIV vaccine will also require antibodies that attack a free-floating virus. Dr. Chakraborty is teaming up with Dennis Burton, an HIV antibody expert at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., to apply random matrix theory to central problems in antibody-based vaccines.


Originally developed more than 50 years ago to describe the energy levels of atomic nuclei, the theory is turning up in everything from inflation rates to the behaviour of solids. So much so that many researchers believe that it points to some kind of deep pattern in nature that we don’t yet understand. “It really does feel like the ideas of random matrix theory are somehow buried deep in the heart of nature,” says electrical engineer Raj Nadakuditi of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

RANDOM MATRIX THEORY
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576398143823831876.html
How Random-Matrix Theory Found Its Way Into a Promising AIDS Study
by Mark Schoofs / June 21, 2011

Random-matrix theory is a mathematical method for finding hidden correlations within masses of data. It doesn’t just find pairs, a relatively easy task, but can detect groups of many correlated units and even groups that change over time, adding and losing members. The theory was developed in the middle of the 20th century by Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner and others to address problems in nuclear physics. In the 1990s and early 2000s, physicists applied it to the stock market. A major event such as a severe recession will act on almost all stocks together, a correlation so broad it has little use. At the other extreme are millions of random correlations – stocks rising or falling together purely by chance. But some stocks, such as those of car companies and parts makers, act in true correlation.

Sure enough, random-matrix theory filtered out the “noise” of random correlations and overwhelming events to reveal such genuine correlations. One of the authors of that finding, physicist Parameswaran Gopikrishnan, working with Boston University physics professor H. Eugene Stanley, is now a managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. “Of course,” Dr. Stanley said, “we know those sectors are correlated anyway.” But his team found the sectors purely by using random-matrix theory “without looking at the innards of the companies,” he explained. That proved the power of the theory, which Dr. Stanley believes could act as an early-warning system for stock-market analysts. If one company in a sector “wanders away and stops being correlated, that would tell you something is going on” in that firm. Arup Chakraborty, a chemistry and chemical engineering professor at MIT, knew of random-matrix theory from the stock market work and from a scientific colleague who had used it to analyze enzymes, though not in HIV. Dr. Chakraborty thought it could help find sectors of HIV that rarely undergo multiple mutations – and it did.

ENTER the MATRIX
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627550.200-enter-the-matrix-the-deep-law-that-shapes-our-reality.html
The deep law that shapes our reality
by Mark Buchanan / 07 April 2010

Suppose we had a theory that could explain everything. Not just atoms and quarks but aspects of our everyday lives too. Sound impossible? Perhaps not. It’s all part of the recent explosion of work in an area of physics known as random matrix theory. Originally developed more than 50 years ago to describe the energy levels of atomic nuclei, the theory is turning up in everything from inflation rates to the behaviour of solids. So much so that many researchers believe that it points to some kind of deep pattern in nature that we don’t yet understand. “It really does feel like the ideas of random matrix theory are somehow buried deep in the heart of nature,” says electrical engineer Raj Nadakuditi of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

All of this, oddly enough, emerged from an effort to turn physicists’ ignorance into an advantage. In 1956, when we knew very little about the internal workings of large, complex atomic nuclei, such as uranium, the German physicist Eugene Wigner suggested simply guessing. Quantum theory tells us that atomic nuclei have many discrete energy levels, like unevenly spaced rungs on a ladder. To calculate the spacing between each of the rungs, you would need to know the myriad possible ways the nucleus can hop from one to another, and the probabilities for those events to happen. Wigner didn’t know, so instead he picked numbers at random for the probabilities and arranged them in a square array called a matrix.

The matrix was a neat way to express the many connections between the different rungs. It also allowed Wigner to exploit the powerful mathematics of matrices in order to make predictions about the energy levels. Bizarrely, he found this simple approach enabled him to work out the likelihood that any one level would have others nearby, in the absence of any real knowledge. Wigner’s results, worked out in a few lines of algebra, were far more useful than anyone could have expected, and experiments over the next few years showed a remarkably close fit to his predictions. Why they work, though, remains a mystery even today. What is most remarkable, though, is how Wigner’s idea has been used since then. It can be applied to a host of problems involving many interlinked variables whose connections can be represented as a random matrix.

The first discovery of a link between Wigner’s idea and something completely unrelated to nuclear physics came about after a chance meeting in the early 1970s between British physicist Freeman Dyson and American mathematician Hugh Montgomery. Montgomery had been exploring one of the most famous functions in mathematics, the Riemann zeta function, which holds the key to finding prime numbers. These are numbers, like 2, 3, 5 and 7, that are only divisible by themselves and 1. They hold a special place in mathematics because every integer greater than 1 can be built from them. In 1859, a German mathematician called Bernhard Riemann had conjectured a simple rule about where the zeros of the zeta function should lie. The zeros are closely linked to the distribution of prime numbers.

Mathematicians have never been able to prove Riemann’s hypothesis. Montgomery couldn’t either, but he had worked out a formula for the likelihood of finding a zero, if you already knew the location of another one nearby. When Montgomery told Dyson of this formula, the physicist immediately recognised it as the very same one that Wigner had devised for nuclear energy levels. To this day, no one knows why prime numbers should have anything to do with Wigner’s random matrices, let alone the nuclear energy levels. But the link is unmistakable. Mathematician Andrew Odlyzko of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis has computed the locations of as many as 1023 zeros of the Riemann zeta function and found a near-perfect agreement with random matrix theory. The strange descriptive power of random matrix theory doesn’t stop there. In the last decade, it has proved itself particularly good at describing a wide range of messy physical systems.

Universal law?
Recently, for example, physicist Ferdinand Kuemmeth and colleagues at Harvard University used it to predict the energy levels of electrons in the gold nanoparticles they had constructed. Traditional theories suggest that such energy levels should be influenced by a bewildering range of factors, including the precise shape and size of the nanoparticle and the relative position of the atoms, which is considered to be more or less random. Nevertheless, Kuemmeth’s team found that random matrix theory described the measured levels very accurately (arxiv.org/abs/0809.0670). A team of physicists led by Jack Kuipers of the University of Regensburg in Germany found equally strong agreement in the peculiar behaviour of electrons bouncing around chaotically inside a quantum dot – essentially a tiny box able to trap and hold single quantum particles (Physical Review Letters, vol 104, p 027001). The list has grown to incredible proportions, ranging from quantum gravity and quantum chromodynamics to the elastic properties of crystals. “The laws emerging from random matrix theory lay claim to universal validity for almost all quantum systems. This is an amazing fact,” says physicist Thomas Guhr of the Lund Institute of Technology in Sweden.

Random matrix theory has got mathematicians like Percy Deift of New York University imagining that there might be more general patterns there too. “This kind of thinking isn’t common in mathematics,” he notes. “Mathematicians tend to think that each of their problems has its own special, distinguishing features. But in recent years we have begun to see that problems from diverse areas, often with no discernible connections, all behave in a very similar way.” In a paper from 2006, for example, he showed how random matrix theory applies very naturally to the mathematics of certain games of solitaire, to the way buses clump together in cities, and the path traced by molecules bouncing around in a gas, among others. The most important question, perhaps, is whether there is some deep theory behind both physics and mathematics that explains why random matrices seem to capture essential truths about reality. “There must be some reason, but we don’t yet know what it is,” admits Nadakuditi. In the meantime, random matrix theory is already changing how we look at random systems and try to understand their behaviour. It may possibly offer a new tool, for example, in detecting small changes in global climate.

Back in 1991, an international scientific collaboration conducted what came to be known as the Heard Island Feasibility Test. Spurred by the idea that the transmission of sound through the world’s oceans might provide a sensitive test of rising temperatures, they transmitted a loud humming sound near Heard Island in the Indian Ocean and used an array of sensors around the world to pick it up. Repeating the experiment 20 years later could yield valuable information on climate change. But concerns over the detrimental effects of loud sounds on local marine life mean that experiments today have to be carried out with signals that are too weak to be detected by ordinary means. That’s where random matrix theory comes in.

Over the past few years, Nadakuditi, working with Alan Edelman and others at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed a theory of signal detection based on random matrices. It is specifically attuned to the operation of a large array of sensors deployed globally. “We have found that you can in principle use extremely weak sounds and still hope to detect the signal,” says Nadakuditi. Others are using random matrix theory to do surprising things, such as enabling light to pass through apparently impenetrable, opaque materials. Last year, physicist Allard Mosk of the University of Twente in the Netherlands and colleagues used it to describe the statistical connections between light that falls on an object and light that is scattered away. For an opaque object that scatters light very well, he notes, these connections can be described by a totally random matrix.

What comes up are some strange possibilities not suggested by other analyses. The matrices revealed that there should be what Mosk calls “open channels” – specific kinds of waves that, instead of being reflected, would somehow pass right through the material. Indeed, when Mosk’s team shone light with a carefully constructed wavefront through a thick, opaque layer of zinc oxide paint, they saw a sharp increase in the transmission of light.
Random matrix theory comes up with strange possibilities not suggested by other analyses, which are then borne out by experiments

Still, the most dramatic applications of random matrix theory may be yet to come. “Some of the main results have been around for decades,” says physicist Jean-Philippe Bouchaud of the École Polytechnique in Paris, France,” but they have suddenly become a lot more important with the handling of humungous data sets in so many areas of science.” In everything from particle physics and astronomy to ecology and economics, collecting and processing enormous volumes of data has become commonplace. An economist may sift through hundreds of data sets looking for something to explain changes in inflation – perhaps oil futures, interest rates or industrial inventories. Businesses such as Amazon.com rely on similar techniques to spot patterns in buyer behaviour and help direct their advertising. While random matrix theory suggests that this is a promising approach, it also points to hidden dangers. As more and more complex data is collected, the number of variables being studied grows, and the number of apparent correlations between them grows even faster. With enough variables to test, it becomes almost certain that you will detect correlations that look significant, even if they aren’t.

Curse of dimensionality
Suppose you have many years’ worth of figures on a large number of economic indices, including inflation, employment and stock market prices. You look for cause-and-effect relationships between them. Bouchaud and his colleagues have shown that even if these variables are all fluctuating randomly, the largest observed correlation will be large enough to seem significant. This is known as the “curse of dimensionality”. It means that while a large amount of information makes it easy to study everything, it also makes it easy to find meaningless patterns. That’s where the random-matrix approach comes in, to separate what is meaningful from what is nonsense.

In the late 1960s, Ukrainian mathematicians Vladimir Marcenko and Leonid Pastur derived a fundamental mathematical result describing the key properties of very large, random matrices. Their result allows you to calculate how much correlation between data sets you should expect to find simply by chance. This makes it possible to distinguish truly special cases from chance accidents. The strengths of these correlations are the equivalent of the nuclear energy levels in Wigner’s original work. Bouchaud’s team has now shown how this idea throws doubt on the trustworthiness of many economic predictions, especially those claiming to look many months ahead. Such predictions are, of course, the bread and butter of economic institutions. But can we believe them?

To find out, Bouchaud and his colleagues looked at how well US inflation rates could be explained by a wide range of economic indicators, such as industrial production, retail sales, consumer and producer confidence, interest rates and oil prices. Using figures from 1983 to 2005, they first calculated all the possible correlations among the data. They found what seem to be significant results – apparent patterns showing how changes in economic indicators at one moment lead to changes in inflation the next. To the unwary observer, this makes it look as if inflation can be predicted with confidence. But when Bouchaud’s team applied Marcenko’s and Pastur’s mathematics, they got a surprise. They found that only a few of these apparent correlations can be considered real, in the sense that they really stood out from what would be expected by chance alone. Their results show that inflation is predictable only one month in advance. Look ahead two months and the mathematics shows no predictability at all. “Adding more data just doesn’t lead to more predictability as some economists would hope,” says Bouchaud.

In recent years, some economists have begun to express doubts over predictions made from huge volumes of data, but they are in the minority. Most embrace the idea that more measurements mean better predictive abilities. That might be an illusion, and random matrix theory could be the tool to separate what is real and what is not. Wigner might be surprised by how far his idea about nuclear energy levels has come, and the strange directions in which it is going, from universal patterns in physics and mathematics to practical tools in social science. It’s clearly not as simplistic as he initially thought.

brain image
This study found reduced connectivity between an area of prefrontal cortex (PFC, red) and the amygdala (blue). The white matter pathway connecting the two structures (the uncinate fasciculus) is shown in green.

STRUCTURAL ABNORMALITIES
http://www.med.wisc.edu/news-events/news/psychopaths-brains-show-differences-in-structure-and-function/32979
Psychopaths’ Brains Show Differences in Structure and Function

Images of prisoners’ brains show important differences between those who are diagnosed as psychopaths and those who aren’t, according to a new study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers. The results could help explain the callous and impulsive antisocial behavior exhibited by some psychopaths.The study showed that psychopaths have reduced connections between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), the part of the brain responsible for sentiments such as empathy and guilt, and the amygdala, which mediates fear and anxiety.

Two types of brain images were collected. Diffusion tensor images (DTI) showed reduced structural integrity in the white matter fibers connecting the two areas, while a second type of image that maps brain activity, a functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI), showed less coordinated activity between the vmPFC and the amygdala. “This is the first study to show both structural and functional differences in the brains of people diagnosed with psychopathy,” says Michael Koenigs, assistant professor of psychiatry in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Those two structures in the brain, which are believed to regulate emotion and social behavior, seem to not be communicating as they should.” The study, which took place in a medium-security prison in Wisconsin, is a unique collaborative between three laboratories, UW-Madison psychology Professor Joseph Newman has had a long term interest in studying and diagnosing those with psychopathy and has worked extensively in the Wisconsin corrections system. Dr. Kent Kiehl, of the University of New Mexico and the MIND Research Network, has a mobile MRI scanner that he brought to the prison and used to scan the prisoners’ brains. Koenigs and his graduate student, Julian Motzkin, led the analysis of the brain scans.


The video shows interactions between microglia (yellow) and dendritic spines (green) in the brain of a living mouse. Each frame is taken 5 minutes apart. The cell body of the microglia in the upper right corner is stable throughout the imaging session, but the microglial processes (looking like tentacles) are extremely dynamic, perpetually changing their morphology and dynamic interactions with small and transient dendritic spines over a span of minutes. http://www.med.wisc.edu/news-events/images-and-video-for-the-media/25328

The study compared the brains of 20 prisoners with a diagnosis of psychopathy with the brains of 20 other prisoners who committed similar crimes but were not diagnosed with psychopathy. “The combination of structural and functional abnormalities provides compelling evidence that the dysfunction observed in this crucial social-emotional circuitry is a stable characteristic of our psychopathic offenders,” Newman says. “I am optimistic that our ongoing collaborative work will shed more light on the source of this dysfunction and strategies for treating the problem.” Newman notes that none of this work would be possible without the extraordinary support provided by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, which he called “the silent partner in this research.” He says the DOC has demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to supporting research designed to facilitate the differential diagnosis and treatment of prisoners. The study, published in the most recent Journal of Neuroscience, builds on earlier work by Newman and Koenigs that showed that psychopaths’ decision-making mirrors that of patients with known damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). This bolsters evidence that problems in that part of the brain are connected to the disorder. “The decision-making study showed indirectly what this study shows directly – that there is a specific brain abnormality associated with criminal psychopathy,” Koenigs adds.



CRIMINAL JUSTICE IMPLICATIONS
http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=35292
UW-Madison Psychiatry imaging study finds brains of psychopaths are different
by Matt Hrodey  /  11/22/2011

The Koenigs Lab, an appendage of the University of Wisconsin Department of Psychiatry, says something about the multidisciplinary nature of neuroscience. Named for Michael Koenigs, an assistant professor of psychiatry, the lab includes a postdoctoral researcher with degrees in psychology and comparative religion, graduate students with backgrounds in biology, philosophy and English, and a scientist trained in applied math. Centered on the mind and nervous system, neuroscience is exploding, and there’s practically no topic it won’t take on, be it Shakespeare, meditation or consciousness itself. Or psychopathy.

In a paper to be published in the Nov. 30 Journal of Neuroscience, Koenigs, along with veteran UW psychopathy researcher Joseph Newman, will unveil new evidence of a physical basis for the disorder. In the study, Koenigs and Newman use brain scans of 40 inmates (20 psychopaths and 20 others) from Fox Lake Correctional Institution in Fox Lake, Wisconsin. In the scans of psychopathic brains, the researchers discovered poor connections between an important brain segment — the “ventromedial prefrontal cortex” (VMPFC) — and another crucial to emotional processing, the almond-shaped amygdala. The study will be the largest yet published that examines this link, according to Koenigs. Researchers used two types of brain scans: one testing the integrity of “white matter” structures connecting the VMPFC and the amygdala, and another tesing how well they communicate. Both types of scans found a weakened link in the brains of psychopaths.

Better understanding such abnormalities could, one day, reorder how the justice system responds to criminals who have them. “Can we hold them as accountable as someone who doesn’t have these abnormalities?” Koenigs asks. Scientists have studied the connection between the VMPFC and amygdala before. In one experiment using rodents, scientists found that stimulating the VMPFC suppressed the amygdala. Koenigs primarily studies brain injuries, particularly those in the VMPFC, where the brain is believed to regulate emotion, process threats, guide decision-making and direct social behavior. Damage to this segment, located just behind the forehead in the frontal lobes, tends to make patients more aggressive, irritable and less sensitive to others. “They’re not the same person they used to be,” Koenigs says. “They develop very striking personality changes reminiscent of psychopathy.”

Is a VMPFC deficiency to blame for psychopathy? It’s not clear. And scientists don’t know if the VMPFC is failing to regulate the amygdala or if the amydala is failing to send crucial emotional feedback to the VMPFC. “Normally, considering a decision [to rob someone] and the harm you would inflict would be marked with a negative emotional state,” says Koenigs. But in psychopaths, this affect is flat. To do their study at Fox Lake, Koenigs and Newman enlisted a mobile MRI lab run by Kent Kiehl, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. The lab, pulled by a tractor trailer, brings the scanner to the inmates. Across the field of neuroscience, researchers are rapidly exploiting the powers of MRI scanning, particularly “functional” scanning, which tracks blood flow in the brain. This flow, because it is directed to busy neurons, is a precise indicator of brain activity. The new study is Newman’s first foray into brain imaging. “There’s a very strong bias toward using brain measurements,” he says, “and there’s been a lot of wonderful progress. People want to see how far we can go.”

Psychopathy is not as rare as some might believe. According to researchers, psychopaths make up an estimated 1% of the U.S. population and between 10% to 20% of the country’s prisoners. In his 30 years of studying psychopathy, Newman has theorized the existence of an “attention bottleneck” in the psychopathic mind that prevents it from fully receiving emotional and other inhibitory signals that say, “Stop! Reconsider! Reevaluate!” The conventional theory on psychopaths is that they lack emotion, be it fear, empathy or guilt, that would otherwise inform decision-making. Newman doesn’t deny that but insists on the importance of attention. “It feels like I’m trying to identify a learning disability,” he says. Our minds unconsciously monitor us. It happens in secret. Our conscious minds don’t know of it until the unconscious sounds an alarm — such as when a nagging suspicion of “having forgotten something” turns out to be true (the oven is still on; the keys were left on the car seat). The psychopathic brain may be very bad at automatically diverting attention to these types of cues if the psychopath is locked into “goal-driven” behavior, a kind of tunnel vision. Such an impairment, if it exists, doesn’t necessarily lead to crime. “Environmental factors are critical,” says Newman. They could be parental abuse, substance abuse or socioeconomic disadvantage. But once classified as a psychopath, an offender is two to five times more likely to reoffend than one who isn’t.

Newman tested his “attention bottleneck” theory in a study published earlier this year. In that study, 87 maximum-security inmates, some classified as psychopaths, sat down in front of computers. Two things appeared on the screen: a square, either red or green, and a letter, either uppercase or lowercase. In some of the trials, researchers startled inmates with a low-intensity shock after showing a red square. (Prisoners were told of the mild “buzzes” before they volunteered.) Each was shocked a total of 24 times, always after a red square. Then, to conclude the trials, the computer asked the prisoners to identify either the case of the letter or the color of the box. The human body, when conditioned to fear something, will startle at its appearance. This is called “fear-potentiated startle.” In the experiment, the red box primed the inmates to startle upon receiving the shock, and they did — with one major exception. In trials where psychopaths first saw the letter, followed by a red square, their startle was greatly diminished. Newman and the other researchers, Arielle Baskin-Sommers, a graduate student at UW-Madison, and John Curtin, a psychology professor, concluded that by presenting the letter first — thereby making the red square “secondary information that is not goal relevant” — the psychopaths fell victim to the “attention bottleneck” as theorized by Newman. They saw the square, but its meaning was not fully absorbed because the letter (and its case) had already won their attention.

There’s growing speculation today that neuroscience could revolutionize the U.S. criminal justice system, overthrowing the old precept of culpability. One indication of the promise of this growing field is a new dual degree program at UW-Madison that will train students in both neuroscience and the law. The “Neuroscience and the Law” track, part of the broader Neuroscience & Public Policyprogram, will allow students to earn a J.D. degree in law and a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience. Applications to join the new track’s first class come due this December. Professor Ron Kalil, a neuroscientist who studies brain injuries and the brain’s innate ability to repair itself, says the new program grew out of a 2010 meeting he had, over coffee, with Pilar Ossorio, an associate professor of law and bioethics. The two left with a “let’s do this” attitude, according to Kalil, but getting university approval for the new track didn’t happen overnight. To make the program official, they needed the approval of four university committees. They succeeded, adding “Neuroscience and the Law” to the existing tracks combining neuroscience and public policy and neuroscience and international public policy. Of neuroscience’s broad range, Kalil says, “At one end you have the study of molecules and proteins that make up parts of neurons, and at the other, the field tries to wrestle with issues that have been on the table since people started to think of themselves as human.” One of these is how to respond to crime, and what punishment is appropriate. “There are a lot of people who are not insane, but they’re not normal,” he says. “Where do we draw the line?”

YOUR BOSS is PSYCHO  (I KNOW, RIGHT?)
http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffbercovici/2011/06/14/why-some-psychopaths-make-great-ceos/
Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs
by Jeff Bercovici / Jun 14 2011

British journalist Jon Ronson immersed himself in the world of mental health diagnosis and criminal profiling to understand what makes some people psychopaths — dangerous predators who lack the behavioral controls and tender feelings the rest of us take for granted. Among the things he learned while researching his new book, “The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry”: the incidence of psychopathy among CEOs is about 4 percent, four times what it is in the population at large. I spoke with him recently about what that means and its implications for the business world and wider society.

Q. Are we really to understand that there’s some connection between what makes people psychopaths and what makes them CEO material?
A. At first I was really skeptical because it seemed like an easy thing to say, almost like a conspiracy theorist’s type of thing to say. I remember years and years ago a conspiracy theorist telling me the world was ruled by blood-drinking, baby-sacrificing lizards. These psychologists were essentially saying the same thing. Basically, when you get them talking, these people [ie. psychopaths] are different than human beings. They lack the things that make you human: empathy, remorse, loving kindness. So at first I thought this might just be psychologists feeling full of themselves with their big ideological notions. But then I met Al Dunlap. [That would be “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, former CEO of Sunbeam and notorious downsizer.] He effortlessly turns the psychopath checklist into “Who Moved My Cheese?” Many items on the checklist he redefines into a manual of how to do well in capitalism. There was his reputation that he was a man who seemed to enjoy firing people, not to mention the stories from his first marriage — telling his first wife he wanted to know what human flesh tastes like, not going to his parents’ funerals. Then your realize that because of this dysfunctional capitalistic society we live in those things were positives. He was hailed and given high-powered jobs, and the more ruthlessly his administration behaved, the more his share price shot up.

Q. So you can just go down the list of Fortune 500 CEOs and say, “psychopath, psychopath, psychopath…”
A. Well, no. Dunlap was an exceptional figure, wasn’t he? An extreme figure. I think my book offers really good evidence that the way that capitalism is structured really is a physical manifestation of the brain anomaly known as psychopathy. However, I woudn’t say every Fortune 500 chief is a psychopath. That would turn me into an ideologue and I abhor ideologues.

Q. Is it an either/or thing? It seems to me, thinking about it, that a lot of the traits on the checklist would be be useful in a corporate ladder-climbing situation. So maybe there are a lot of CEOs who simply have some psychopathic tendencies.
A. It is a spectrum, but there’s a cutoff point. If you’re going by the Hare checklist [the standard inventory used in law enforcement, devised by leading researcher Robert Hare], where the top score is 40, the average anxiety-ridden business failure like me — although the fact that my book just made the Times best sellers list makes it difficult to call myself that — would score a 4 or 5. Somebody you have to be wary of would be in early 20s and a really hard core damaged person, a really dangerous psychopath, would score around a 30. In law the cutoff is 29. There are absolutes in psychopathy and the main absolute is a literal absence of empathy. It’s just not there. In higher-scoring psychopaths, what grows in the vacant field where that empathy should be is a joy in manipulating people, a lack of remorse, a lack of guilt. If you’ve got a little bit of empathy, you’re kind of not a psychopath.

Q. So maybe there’s a sweet spot? A point on the spectrum somewhere short of full-blown psychopathy that’s most conducive to success in business.
A. That’s possible. Obviously there are items on the checklist you don’t want to have if you’re a boss. You don’t want poor behavioral controls. It’d be better if you don’t have promiscuous behavior. It’d be better if you don’t have serious behavioral problems in childhood, because that will eventually come out. But you do want lack of empathy, lack of remorse, glibness, superficial charm, manipulativeness. I think the other positive traits for psychopaths in business is need for stimulation, proneness to boredom. You want somebody who can’t sit still, who’s constantly thinking about how to better things. A really interesting question is whether psychopathy can be a positive thing. Some psychologists would say yes, that there are certain attributes like coolness under pressure, which is sort of a fundamental positive. But Robert Hare would always say no, that in the absence of empathy, which is the definition in psychology of a psychopath, you will always get malevolence. Basically, high-scoring psychopaths can be brilliant bosses but only ever for short term. Just like Al Dunlap, they always want to make a killing and move on. And then you’ve got this question of what came first? Is society getting more and more psychopathic in its kind of desire for short-term killings? Is that because we kind of admire psychopaths in all their glib, superficial charm and ruthlessness?

Q. There’s a certain sour grapes aspect to accusing CEOs of being psychopaths. It’s very tempting to look at anyone more successful than you are and say, “It must be because he’s a monster.”
A. There’s a terribly seductive power in becoming a psychopath stalker. It can really dehumanize you. I can look at, say, Dominique Strauss Kahn, who, if one assumes that what one is hearing about him is true, certainly he hits a huge amount of items on the checklist — the $30,000 suits, the poor behavioral controls, the impulsivity, the promiscuous sexual behavior. But of course when you say this you’re in terrible danger of being seduced by the checklist, which I really like to add as a caveat. It kind of turns you into a bit of a psychopath yourself in that that you start to shove people into that box. It robs you of empathy and your connection to human beings. Which is why people like Robert Hare are kind of useful. I’m against the way that people like me can be seduced into misusing the checklist, but I’m not against the checklist.

PSYCHOPATHIC C.E.O.s
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/12/magazine/12PSYCHO.html
by Michael Steinberger / December 12, 2004

Ever wonder what leads a lavishly compensated C.E.O. to cheat, steal and lie? Perhaps he’s a psychopath, and now there is a test, the B-Scan 360, that can help make that determination. The B-Scan was conceived by Paul Babiak, an industrial psychologist, and Robert Hare, the creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathic features in prison inmates. The B-Scan is the first formalized attempt to uncover similar tendencies in captains of industry, and it speaks to a growing suspicion that psychopaths may be especially adept at scaling the corporate ladder.

Indeed, Babiak and Hare could not have chosen a more propitious moment to roll out the B-Scan, which is now in the trial stage. The recent rash of damaging corporate scandals — combined with legislation making boards far more liable for executive malfeasance — has given companies good reason to screen current employees more rigorously. According to Babiak and Hare, white-collar psychopaths are not apt to become serial rapists or murderers. Rather, they are prone to being ”subcriminal” psychopaths: smooth-talking, energetic individuals who easily charm their way into jobs and promotions but who are also exceedingly manipulative, narcissistic and ruthless. The purpose of the B-Scan is to smoke out these “snakes in suits”. The individual being evaluated does not actually take the test. Instead, it is given to his or her superiors, subordinates and peers. They rate the subject in four broad categories — organizational maturity, personal style, emotional style and social style — and 16 subcategories, like reliability, honesty and sincerity.

Babiak and Hare say that decisions to promote or dismiss ought not to be made on the basis of the B-Scan alone and that it is possible, with good coaching and training, to turn a talented executive with mild psychopathic tendencies into an effective manager. They acknowledge too that strong corporate leadership may require a certain degree of guile, egoism and callousness. But they point out that the frenzied nature of modern business — the constant downsizing, the relentless merging and acquiring — provides a very fertile environment for havoc-wreaking psychopaths, who thrive on chaos and risk-taking. As Hare put it in one interview, ”If I couldn’t study psychopaths in prison, I would go down to the Stock Exchange.”

CONTACT
Paul Babiak
http://www.hrbackoffice.com/index-4.html
email : Inquiry [at] PaulBabiak [dot] com

Robert Hare
http://www.hare.org/
http://www.hare.org/links/media.html
http://www.hare.org/references/main.html
email : contact [at] hare [dot] org

PSYCHOPATHY CHECKLIST
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare_Psychopathy_Checklist
http://www.hare.org/scales/
Psychopathy Scales

PCL-R   PCL:SV   P-SCAN   PCL:YV   APSD   TREATMENT GUIDELINES

“Dr. Hare has spent over 35 years researching psychopathy and is the developer of theHare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), and a co-author of its derivatives, thePsychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV), the P-Scan, the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL:YV), and the Antisocial Process Screening Device(APSD). He is also a co-author of the Guidelines for a Psychopathy Treatment Program. The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, with demonstrated reliability and validity, is rapidly being adopted worldwide as the standard instrument for researchers and clinicians. The PCL-R and PCL:SV are strong predictors of recidivism, violence and response to therapeutic intervention. They play an important role in most recent risk-for-violence instruments. The PCL-R was reviewed in Buros Mental Measurements Yearbook (1995), as being the “state of the art” both clinically and in research use. In 2005, the Buros Mental Measurements Yearbook review listed the PCL-R as “a reliable and effective instrument for the measurement of psychopathy and is considered the ‘gold standard’ for measurement of psychopathy.”


Bison skull pile, 1870s

HR PROBLEM
http://www.humanresourcesmagazine.com.au/articles/51/0c030a51.asp
Catching the corporate psychopath
by Stuart Fagg / 15 June 2005

Rodney Adler, Ray Williams, Bernie Ebbers. These men have much in common. For a start they were once all hailed as successful businessmen and players of acumen, and secondly they are all now behind bars for their roles in the collapse of their companies. Of course they are not the only ones paying for their misdemeanours – there are plenty of share and policy holders who will attest to that. They also have one final thing in common – they all exhibit the behaviours of corporate psychopaths. According to Dr Robert Hogan, a US expert in personality profiling, however, it would seem that the likes of Adler are aberrations in the business world. But corporate psychopaths are far from unusual in the corporate world. By Hogan’s reckoning, the result of decades of research, incompetent and potentially damaging management accounts for some 60-70 per cent of the total pool in the US. When he brought these views to bear initially in the early 1990s, they were not popular and were dismissed by many that refused to believe that there were that many potential corporate psychopaths in US business. However, these days, and particularly having seen the damage wreaked by individuals after the scandals at Enron, WorldCom, OneTel and HIH, boards of directors and the share market are demanding more ethical executives. With the potential for increased liability under the Corporations Act, this trend may continue going forward. All well and good, but what is the impact of these corporate psychopaths? After all, some of the qualities that define such people also define some of the most successful people in business. “Researchers looked at Fortune 1000 companies that had 15 years of performance right at the average of their industry, and then a change and 15 subsequent years of sustained performance significantly above the average for the industry. Out of 1,000 companies they found 11,” Hogan said. “They investigated the 11 companies and found that the constant was the CEO. All 11 CEOs were understated and humble and that’s a stake in the heart for the theory of the celebrity CEO or charismatic leader.”

While background checks and screening are gaining popularity in Australian business, and in some cases being applied at higher executive levels, personality profiling remains a relatively unexplored concept in Australia. However, that may change. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, for example, is set to publish proposals for standards governing the fitness and propriety of responsible persons in financial institutions. The proposed standards are designed to weed out executives who have been declared bankrupt, failed to manage personal debts or held responsibility in a failed institution. Additionally anyone with a civil or criminal conviction related to dishonesty in dealings with financial institutions will also be barred. “The proposals are designed to reflect community expectations about persons who fill positions of responsibility in these industries and will set minimum benchmarks for people in, or wishing to enter, these industries at director, senior management or advisory level,” said Dr John Laker, APRA chairman. Traditionally, APRA has always focussed on the institution it is regulating, rather than the individuals running the institution. But, recent events in Australia and internationally have highlighted the importance of enuring that people in positions of power at companies are subject to the same scrutiny as the company itself. With regulated entities being required to develop their own policies, personality assessment may become more commonplace in sectors such as the insurance industry. But there is something of a grey area in the assessments. For example, financial markets traders must display some of the more undesirable qualities –ruthlessness, overt smartness and a tendency to gamble – for senior management to succeed in their positions. “We have a lot of data on traders and as a group they are real smart and really crazy,” said Hogan. “But don’t let them into management positions. People like that – Bill Clinton is a great example – tend to self nominate into leadership roles. They think they’re so hot they want to be in charge.”

Background checks and screening may not, however, detect these characteristics and head off the appointment of a potentially damaging executive. “The really bad guys will sail through a background check and will do really well in interviews. They do really well in assessment centres. The really dangerous ones are really smart, really charming and really fast on their feet and people love them.” This is where personality assessment earns its stripes, according to Hogan. Through developing his assessment system, Hogan has amassed an impressive data repository from the 3 million tests that have been carried out using his methodology. This data accurately tracks personality trends in business, and once companies see the data, said Hogan, it’s a relatively easy sell. But what happens if the CEO of the company is the corporate psychopath? “That’s our worst nightmare,” he told Human Resources. “When you assess the management team and see all these problems come from them, how can you fix that? But if you can find a company that’s willing to pay attention to data it’s an easy deal for us.”

“CHAINSAW” AL DUNLAP
http://www.portfolio.com/executives/2009/04/22/Al-Dunlap-Profile

“Picked by the board of Scott Paper Co. as the man to turn the struggling company around, Dunlap earned his nickname by slicing 11,000 employees. When Scott merged with Kimberly-Clark, Dunlap’s payoff was estimated at more than $100 million. Such scenarios are familiar. So are the debates over where to draw the line between painful-but-necessary restructuring and cold-hearted recklessness. Yet Dunlap stood out for the obvious joy he took in slamming his detractors as purveyors of “nonsense,” “rubbish,” and “socialism.” Chainsaw Al was the middle finger of the free market’s invisible hand.

Dunlap’s memoir-cum-manifesto, Mean Business, roughly coincided with his next CEO star turn, which was also to be his last. Sunbeam’s stock surged on the news that the Chainsaw was coming; massive workforce reductions and factory closures followed within months. His book clearly explained what set him apart from “addle-brained” and “weak” executives: “I’m a superstar in my field,” he wrote. Could there be a clearer sell signal? Unable to flip Sunbeam to a new buyer, as he’d done with Scott, Dunlap was stuck actually running the company. He failed spectacularly. Within two miserable years, the board fired him. The tactics he’d used to stave off losses—the company overstated its net income by $60 million, which was real money back then—earned him a civil suit from the SEC and a class-action suit by shareholders. Dunlap eventually settled both and was barred from serving as an officer or director of any public company. You could call Chainsaw Al’s story a fall from grace, but in his case, that’s probably not the proper word.”

UM, TOTALLY
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/96/open_boss.html
Is Your Boss a Psychopath?
by Alan Deutschman / December 19, 2007

One of the most provocative ideas about business in this decade so far surfaced in a most unlikely place. The forum wasn’t the Harvard Business School or one of those $4,000-a-head conferences where Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists search for the next big thing. It was a convention of Canadian cops in the far-flung province of Newfoundland. The speaker, a 71-year-old professor emeritus from the University of British Columbia, remains virtually unknown in the business realm. But he’s renowned in his own field: criminal psychology. Robert Hare is the creator of the Psychopathy Checklist. The 20-item personality evaluation has exerted enormous influence in its quarter-century history. It’s the standard tool for making clinical diagnoses of psychopaths — the 1% of the general population that isn’t burdened by conscience. Psychopaths have a profound lack of empathy. They use other people callously and remorselessly for their own ends. They seduce victims with a hypnotic charm that masks their true nature as pathological liars, master con artists, and heartless manipulators. Easily bored, they crave constant stimulation, so they seek thrills from real-life “games” they can win — and take pleasure from their power over other people.

On that August day in 2002, Hare gave a talk on psychopathy to about 150 police and law-enforcement officials. He was a legendary figure to that crowd. The FBI and the British justice system have long relied on his advice. He created the P-Scan, a test widely used by police departments to screen new recruits for psychopathy, and his ideas have inspired the testing of firefighters, teachers, and operators of nuclear power plants. According to the Canadian Press and Toronto Sun reporters who rescued the moment from obscurity, Hare began by talking about Mafia hit men and sex offenders, whose photos were projected on a large screen behind him. But then those images were replaced by pictures of top executives from WorldCom, which had just declared bankruptcy, and Enron, which imploded only months earlier. The securities frauds would eventually lead to long prison sentences for WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers and Enron CFO Andrew Fastow. “These are callous, cold-blooded individuals,” Hare said. “They don’t care that you have thoughts and feelings. They have no sense of guilt or remorse.” He talked about the pain and suffering the corporate rogues had inflicted on thousands of people who had lost their jobs, or their life’s savings. Some of those victims would succumb to heart attacks or commit suicide, he said.

Then Hare came out with a startling proposal. He said that the recent corporate scandals could have been prevented if CEOs were screened for psychopathic behavior. “Why wouldn’t we want to screen them?” he asked. “We screen police officers, teachers. Why not people who are going to handle billions of dollars?” It’s Hare’s latest contribution to the public awareness of “corporate psychopathy.” He appeared in the 2003 documentary The Corporation, giving authority to the film’s premise that corporations are “sociopathic” (a synonym for “psychopathic”) because they ruthlessly seek their own selfish interests — “shareholder value” — without regard for the harms they cause to others, such as environmental damage. Is Hare right? Are corporations fundamentally psychopathic organizations that attract similarly disposed people? It’s a compelling idea, especially given the recent evidence. Such scandals as Enron and WorldCom aren’t just aberrations; they represent what can happen when some basic currents in our business culture turn malignant. We’re worshipful of top executives who seem charismatic, visionary, and tough. So long as they’re lifting profits and stock prices, we’re willing to overlook that they can also be callous, conning, manipulative, deceitful, verbally and psychologically abusive, remorseless, exploitative, self-delusional, irresponsible, and megalomaniacal. So we collude in the elevation of leaders who are sadly insensitive to hurting others and society at large.

But wait, you say: Don’t bona fide psychopaths become serial killers or other kinds of violent criminals, rather than the guys in the next cubicle or the corner office? That was the conventional wisdom. Indeed, Hare began his work by studying men in prison. Granted, that’s still an unusually good place to look for the conscience-impaired. The average Psychopathy Checklist score for incarcerated male offenders in North America is 23.3, out of a possible 40. A score of around 20 qualifies as “moderately psychopathic.” Only 1% of the general population would score 30 or above, which is “highly psychopathic,” the range for the most violent offenders. Hare has said that the typical citizen would score a 3 or 4, while anything below that is “sliding into sainthood.” On the broad continuum between the ethical everyman and the predatory killer, there’s plenty of room for people who are ruthless but not violent. This is where you’re likely to find such people as Ebbers, Fastow, ImClone CEO Sam Waksal, and hotelier Leona Helmsley. We put several big-name CEOs through the checklist, and they scored as “moderately psychopathic”; our quiz on page 48 lets you try a similar exercise with your favorite boss. And this summer, together with New York industrial psychologist Paul Babiak, Hare begins marketing the B-Scan, a personality test that companies can use to spot job candidates who may have an MBA but lack a conscience. “I always said that if I wasn’t studying psychopaths in prison, I’d do it at the stock exchange,” Hare told Fast Company. “There are certainly more people in the business world who would score high in the psychopathic dimension than in the general population. You’ll find them in any organization where, by the nature of one’s position, you have power and control over other people and the opportunity to get something.”

There’s evidence that the business climate has become even more hospitable to psychopaths in recent years. In pioneering long-term studies of psychopaths in the workplace, Babiak focused on a half-dozen unnamed companies: One was a fast-growing high-tech firm, and the others were large multinationals undergoing dramatic organizational changes — severe downsizing, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures. That’s just the sort of corporate tumult that has increasingly characterized the U.S. business landscape in the last couple of decades. And just as wars can produce exciting opportunities for murderous psychopaths to shine (think of Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic), Babiak found that these organizational shake-ups created a welcoming environment for the corporate killer. “The psychopath has no difficulty dealing with the consequences of rapid change; in fact, he or she thrives on it,” Babiak claims. “Organizational chaos provides both the necessary stimulation for psychopathic thrill seeking and sufficient cover for psychopathic manipulation and abusive behavior.”

And you can make a compelling case that the New Economy, with its rule-breaking and roller-coaster results, is just dandy for folks with psychopathic traits too. A slow-moving old-economy corporation would be too boring for a psychopath, who needs constant stimulation. Its rigid structures and processes and predictable ways might stymie his unethical scheming. But a charge-ahead New Economy maverick — an Enron, for instance — would seem the ideal place for this kind of operator. But how can we recognize psychopathic types? Hare has revised his Psychopathy Checklist (known as the PCL-R, or simply “the Hare”) to make it easier to identify so-called subcriminal or corporate psychopaths. He has broken down the 20 personality characteristics into two subsets, or “factors.” Corporate psychopaths score high on Factor 1, the “selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others” category. It includes eight traits: glibness and superficial charm; grandiose sense of self-worth; pathological lying; conning and manipulativeness; lack of remorse or guilt; shallow affect (i.e., a coldness covered up by dramatic emotional displays that are actually playacting); callousness and lack of empathy; and the failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions. Sound like anyone you know? (Corporate psychopaths score only low to moderate on Factor 2, which pinpoints “chronically unstable, antisocial, and socially deviant lifestyle,” the hallmarks of people who wind up in jail for rougher crimes than creative accounting.)

This view is supported by research by psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon at the University of Surrey, who interviewed and gave personality tests to 39 high-level British executives and compared their profiles with those of criminals and psychiatric patients. The executives were even more likely to be superficially charming, egocentric, insincere, and manipulative, and just as likely to be grandiose, exploitative, and lacking in empathy. Board and Fritzon concluded that the businesspeople they studied might be called “successful psychopaths.” In contrast, the criminals — the “unsuccessful psychopaths” — were more impulsive and physically aggressive.

The Factor 1 psychopathic traits seem like the playbook of many corporate power brokers through the decades. Manipulative? Louis B. Mayer was said to be a better actor than any of the stars he employed at MGM, able to turn on the tears at will to evoke sympathy during salary negotiations with his actors. Callous? Henry Ford hired thugs to crush union organizers, deployed machine guns at his plants, and stockpiled tear gas. He cheated on his wife with his teenage personal assistant and then had the younger woman marry his chauffeur as a cover. Lacking empathy? Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley shouted profanities at and summarily fired hundreds of employees allegedly for trivialities, like a maid missing a piece of lint. Remorseless? Soon after Martin Davis ascended to the top position at Gulf & Western, a visitor asked why half the offices were empty on the top floor of the company’s Manhattan skyscraper. “Those were my enemies,” Davis said. “I got rid of them.” Deceitful? Oil baron Armand Hammer laundered money to pay for Soviet espionage. Grandiosity? Thy name is Trump.

In the most recent wave of scandals, Enron’s Fastow displayed many of the corporate psychopath’s traits. He pressured his bosses for a promotion to CFO even though he had a shaky grasp of the position’s basic responsibilities, such as accounting and treasury operations. Suffering delusions of grandeur after just a little time on the job, Fastow ordered Enron’s PR people to lobby CFO magazine to make him its CFO of the Year. But Fastow’s master manipulation was a scheme to loot Enron. He set up separate partnerships, secretly run by himself, to engage in deals with Enron. The deals quickly made tens of millions of dollars for Fastow — and prettified Enron’s financials in the short run by taking unwanted assets off its books. But they left Enron with time bombs that would ultimately cause the company’s total implosion — and lose shareholders billions. When Enron’s scandals were exposed, Fastow pleaded guilty to securities fraud and agreed to pay back nearly $24 million and serve 10 years in prison.

“Chainsaw” Al Dunlap might score impressively on the corporate Psychopathy Checklist too. What do you say about a guy who didn’t attend his own parents’ funerals? He allegedly threatened his first wife with guns and knives. She charged that he left her with no food and no access to their money while he was away for days. His divorce was granted on grounds of “extreme cruelty.” That’s the characteristic that endeared him to Wall Street, which applauded when he fired 11,000 workers at Scott Paper, then another 6,000 (half the labor force) at Sunbeam. Chainsaw hurled a chair at his human-resources chief, the very man who approved the handgun and bulletproof vest on his expense report. Dunlap needed the protection because so many people despised him. His plant closings kept up his reputation for ruthlessness but made no sense economically, and Sunbeam’s financial gains were really the result of Dunlap’s alleged book cooking. When he was finally exposed and booted, Dunlap had the nerve to demand severance pay and insist that the board reprice his stock options. Talk about failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions. While knaves such as Fastow and Dunlap make the headlines, most horror stories of workplace psychopathy remain the stuff of frightened whispers. Insiders in the New York media business say the publisher of one of the nation’s most famous magazines broke the nose of one of his female sales reps in the 1990s. But he was considered so valuable to the organization that the incident didn’t impede his career.

Most criminals — whether psychopathic or not — are shaped by poverty and often childhood abuse as well. In contrast, corporate psychopaths typically grew up in stable, loving families that were middle class or affluent. But because they’re pathological liars, they tell romanticized tales of rising from tough, impoverished backgrounds. Dunlap pretended that he grew up as the son of a laid-off dockworker; in truth, his father worked steadily and raised his family in suburban comfort. The corporate psychopaths whom Babiak studied all went to college, and a couple even had PhDs. Their ruthless pursuit of self-interest was more easily accomplished in the white-collar realm, which their backgrounds had groomed them for, rather than the criminal one, which comes with much lousier odds. Psychopaths succeed in conventional society in large measure because few of us grasp that they are fundamentally different from ourselves. We assume that they, too, care about other people’s feelings. This makes it easier for them to “play” us. Although they lack empathy, they develop an actor’s expertise in evoking ours. While they don’t care about us, “they have an element of emotional intelligence, of being able to see our emotions very clearly and manipulate them,” says Michael Maccoby, a psychotherapist who has consulted for major corporations.

Psychopaths are typically very likable. They make us believe that they reciprocate our loyalty and friendship. When we realize that they were conning us all along, we feel betrayed and foolish. “People see sociopathy in their personal lives, and they don’t have a clue that it has a label or that others have encountered it,” says Martha Stout, a psychologist at the Harvard Medical School and the author of the recent best-seller The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us (Broadway Books, 2005). “It makes them feel crazy or alone. It goes against our intuition that a small percentage of people can be so different from the rest of us — and so evil. Good people don’t want to believe it.” Of course, cynics might say that it can be an advantage to lack a conscience. That’s probably why major investors installed Dunlap as the CEO of Sunbeam: He had no qualms about decimating the workforce to impress Wall Street. One reason outside executives get brought into troubled companies is that they lack the emotional stake in either the enterprise or its people. It’s easier for them to act callously and remorselessly, which is exactly what their backers want. The obvious danger of the new B-Scan test for psychopathic tendencies is that companies will hire or promote people with high scores rather than screen them out. Even Babiak, the test’s codeveloper, says that while “a high score is a red flag, sometimes middle scores are okay. Perhaps you don’t want the most honest and upfront salesman.”

Indeed, not every aberrant boss is necessarily a corporate psychopath. There’s another personality that’s often found in the executive suite: the narcissist. While many psychologists would call narcissism a disorder, this trait can be quite beneficial for top bosses, and it’s certainly less pathological than psychopathy. Maccoby’s book The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Perils of Visionary Leadership (Broadway Books, 2003) portrays the narcissistic CEO as a grandiose egotist who is on a mission to help humanity in the abstract even though he’s often insensitive to the real people around him. Maccoby counts Apple’s Steve Jobs, General Electric’s Jack Welch, Intel’s Andy Grove, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Southwest Airlines’ Herb Kelleher as “productive narcissists,” or PNs. Narcissists are visionaries who attract hordes of followers, which can make them excel as innovators, but they’re poor listeners and they can be awfully touchy about criticism. “These people don’t have much empathy,” Maccoby says. “When Bill Gates tells someone, ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,’ or Steve Jobs calls someone a bozo, they’re not concerned about people’s feelings. They see other people as a means toward their ends. But they do have a sense of changing the world — in their eyes, improving the world. They build their own view of what the world should be and get others recruited to their vision. Psychopaths, in contrast, are only interested in self.”

Maccoby concedes that productive narcissists can become “drunk with power” and turn destructive. The trick, he thinks, is to pair a productive narcissist with a “productive obsessive,” or conscientious, control-minded manager. Think of Grove when he was matched with chief operating officer Craig Barrett, Gates with president Steve Ballmer, Kelleher with COO Colleen Barrett, and Oracle’s Larry Ellison with COO Ray Lane and CFO Jeff Henley. In his remarkably successful second tour of duty at Apple, Jobs has been balanced by steady, competent behind-the-scenes players such as Timothy Cook, his executive vice president for sales and operations. But our culture’s embrace of narcissism as the hallmark of admired business leaders is dangerous, Babiak maintains, since “individuals who are really psychopaths are often mistaken for narcissists and chosen by the organization for leadership positions.” How does he distinguish the difference between the two types? “In the case of a narcissist, everything is me, me, me,” Babiak explains. “With a psychopath, it’s ‘Is it thrilling, is it a game I can win, and does it hurt others?’ My belief is a psychopath enjoys hurting others.”

Intriguingly, Babiak believes that it’s extremely unlikely for an entrepreneurial founder-CEO to be a corporate psychopath because the company is an extension of his own ego — something he promotes rather than plunders. “The psychopath has no allegiance to the company at all, just to self,” Babiak says. “A psychopath is playing a short-term parasitic game.” That was the profile of Fastow and Dunlap — guys out to profit for themselves without any concern for the companies and lives they were wrecking. In contrast, Jobs and Ellison want their own companies to thrive forever — indeed, to dominate their industries and take over other fields as well. “An entrepreneurial founder-CEO might have a narcissistic tendency that looks like psychopathy,” Babiak says. “But they have a vested interest: Their identity is wrapped up with the company’s existence. They’re loyal to the company.” So these types are ruthless not only for themselves but also for their companies, their extensions of self.

The issue is whether we will continue to elevate, celebrate, and reward so many executives who, however charismatic, remain indifferent to hurting other people. Babiak says that while the first line of defense against psychopaths in the workplace is screening job candidates, the second line is a “culture of openness and trust, especially when the company is undergoing intense, chaotic change.” Europe is far ahead of the United States in trying to deal with psychological abuse and manipulation at work. The “antibullying” movement in Europe has produced new laws in France and Sweden. Harvard’s Stout suggests that the relentlessly individualistic culture of the United States contributes a lot to our problems. She points out that psychopathy has a dramatically lower incidence in certain Asian cultures, where the heritage has emphasized community bonds rather than glorified self-interest. “If we continue to go this way in our Western culture,” she says, “evolutionarily speaking, it doesn’t end well.” The good news is that we can do something about corporate psychopaths. Scientific consensus says that only about 50% of personality is influenced by genetics, so psychopaths are molded by our culture just as much as they are born among us. But unless American business makes a dramatic shift, we’ll get more Enrons — and deserve them.

the PSYCHOPATH TEST
http://www.npr.org/2011/05/21/136462824/a-psychopath-walks-into-a-room-can-you-tell
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/436/the-psychopath-test
aired 05.27.2011

Recently we heard about this test that could determine if someone was a psychopath. So, naturally, our staff decided to take it. This week we hear the results. Ira explains that when the radio staff decided to take a test that reveals who is a psychopath, very quickly everyone came to believe that the highest score would go to either Robyn, Jane, or him. (6 minutes)

Underachievement Test
NPR Science Correspondent Alix Spiegel tells the story of Robert Dixon, who’s in a maximum security prison in Vacaville California and is unlikely to ever get parole because of his score on the psychopath test. The test also is called “the checklist” or, more formally, the PCL-R, which stands for “Psychopathy Check List—Revised.” Alix tells the story of its creation and reports that the man who created the test, Bob Hare, is concerned at how it’s being used today in the criminal justice system. A version of this story aired on NPR’s All Things Considered. (28 minutes)

King of the Forest
Jon Ronson investigates whether corporate leaders can, in fact, be psychopaths by visiting a former Sunbeam CEO named Al Dunlap. This is an excerpt from Ronson’s book, The Psychopath Test. (15 minutes)Song: “If I Were King of the Forest”, Wizard of Oz Soundtrack

Results
Ira and the radio show staff get their results on the psychopath test from Dr. David Bernstein, ofForensic Consultants, LLC., who administered the test to them. (6 minutes)

TAKE the QUIZ
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/96/open_boss-quiz.html
by Fast Company Staff / July 1, 2005

The standard clinical test for psychopathy, Robert Hare’s PCL-R, evaluates 20 personality traits overall, but a subset of eight traits defines what he calls the “corporate psychopath” — the nonviolent person prone to the “selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others.” Does your boss fit the profile? Here’s our do-it-yourself quiz drawing on the test manual and Hare’s book Without Conscience. (Disclaimer: If you’re not a psychologist or psychiatrist, this will be a strictly amateur exercise.) We’ve used the pronoun “he,” but research suggests psychologists have underestimated the psychopathic propensity of women.

For each question, score two points for “yes,” one point for “somewhat” or “maybe,” and zero points for “no.”

[1] Is he glib and superficially charming?
Is he a likable personality and a terrific talker — entertaining, persuasive, but maybe a bit too smooth and slick? Can he pass himself off as a supposed expert in a business meeting even though he really doesn’t know much about the topic? Is he a flatterer? Seductive, but insincere? Does he tell amusing but unlikely anecdotes celebrating his own past? Can he persuade his colleagues to support a certain position this week — and then argue with equal conviction and persuasiveness for the opposite position next week? If he’s a CEO, can he appear on TV and somehow get away without answering the interviewer’s direct questions or saying anything truly substantive?
SCORE__

[2] Does he have a grandiose sense of self-worth?
Does he brag? Is he arrogant? Superior? Domineering? Does he feel he’s above the rules that apply to “little people”? Does he act as though everything revolves around him? Does he downplay his legal, financial, or personal problems, say they’re just temporary, or blame them on others?
SCORE__

[3] Is he a pathological liar?
Has he reinvented his own past in a more positive light — for example, claiming that he rose from a tough, poor background even though he really grew up middle class? Does he lie habitually even though he can easily be found out? When he’s exposed, does he still act unconcerned because he thinks he can weasel out of it? Does he enjoy lying? Is he proud of his knack for deceit? Is it hard to tell whether he knows he’s a liar or whether he deceives himself and believes his own bull?
SCORE__

[4] Is he a con artist or master manipulator?
Does he use his skill at lying to cheat or manipulate other people in his quest for money, power, status, and sex? Does he “use” people brilliantly? Does he engage in dishonest schemes such as cooking the books?
SCORE__

[5] When he harms other people, does he feel a lack of remorse or guilt?
Is he concerned about himself rather than the wreckage he inflicts on others or society at large? Does he say he feels bad but act as though he really doesn’t? Even if he has been convicted of a white-collar crime, such as securities fraud, does he not accept blame for what he did, even after getting out of prison? Does he blame others for the trouble he causes?
SCORE__

[6] Does he have a shallow affect?
Is he cold and detached, even when someone near him dies, suffers, or falls seriously ill — for example, does he visit the hospital or attend the funeral? Does he make brief, dramatic displays of emotion that are nothing more than putting on a theatrical mask and playacting for effect? Does he claim to be your friend but rarely or never ask about the details of your life or your emotional state? Is he one of those tough-guy executives who brag about how emotions are for whiners and losers?
SCORE__

[7] Is he callous and lacking in empathy?
Does he not give a damn about the feelings or well-being of other people? Is he profoundly selfish? Does he cruelly mock others? Is he emotionally or verbally abusive toward employees, “friends,” and family members? Can he fire employees without concern for how they’ll get by without the job? Can he profit from embezzlement or stock fraud without concern for the harm he’s doing to shareholders or pensioners who need their savings to pay for their retirements?
SCORE__

[8] Does he fail to accept responsibility for his own actions?
Does he always cook up some excuse? Does he blame others for what he’s done? If he’s under investigation or on trial for a corporate crime, like deceitful accounting or stock fraud, does he refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing even when the hard evidence is stacked against him?
SCORE__

Total____
If your boss scores:
1-4 | Be frustrated
5-7 | Be cautious
8-12 | Be afraid
13-16 | Be very afraid

SO CHARMING at FIRST
http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199401/charming-psychopath
by Robert Hare / January 01, 1994

A major part of my own quarter-century search for answers to this enigma has been a concerted effort to develop an accurate means of detecting the psychopaths among us. Measurement and categorization are, of course, fundamental to any scientific endeavor, but the implications of being able to identify psychopaths are as much practical as academic. To put it simply, if we can’t spot them, we are doomed to be their victims, both as individuals and as a society. My role in the search for psychopaths began in the 1960s at the psychology department of the University of British Columbia. There, my growing interest in psychopathy merged with my experience working with psychopaths in prison to form what was to become my life’s work. I assembled a team of clinicians who would identify psychopaths in the prison population by means of long, detailed interviews and close study of file information. From this eventually developed a highly reliable diagnostic tool that any clinician or researcher could use and that yielded a richly detailed profile of the personality disorder called psychopathy. We named this instrument the Psychopathy Checklist (Multi-Health Systems; 1991). The checklist is now used worldwide and provides clinicians and researchers with a way of distinguishing, with reasonable certainty, true psychopaths from those who merely break the rules.

What follows is a general summary of the key traits and behaviors of a psychopath. Do not use these symptoms to diagnose yourself or others. A diagnosis requires explicit training and access to the formal scoring manual. If you suspect that someone you know conforms to the profile described here, and if it is important for you to have an expert opinion, you should obtain the services of a qualified (registered) forensic psychologist or psychiatrist. Also, be aware that people who are not psychopaths may have some of the symptoms described here. Many people are impulsive, or glib, or cold and unfeeling, but this does not mean that they are psychopaths. Psychopathy is a syndrome—a cluster of related symptoms.

Key Symptoms of Psychopathy
Emotional/Interpersonal:

  • Glib and superficial
  • Egocentric and grandiose
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Lack of empathy
  • Deceitful and manipulative
  • Shallow emotions

Social Deviance:

  • Impulsive
  • Poor behavior controls
  • Need for excitement
  • Lack of responsibility
  • Early behavior problems
  • Adult antisocial behavior

Glib and Superficial
Psychopaths are often voluble and verbally facile. They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a clever comeback, and are able to tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves in a good light. They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likable and charming. One of my raters described an interview she did with a prisoner: “I sat down and took out my clipboard,” she said, “and the first thing this guy told me was what beautiful eyes I had. He managed to work quite a few compliments on my appearance into the interview, so by the time I wrapped things up, I was feeling unusually… well, pretty. I’m a wary person, especially on the job, and can usually spot a phony. When I got back outside, I couldn’t believe I’d fallen for a line like that.”

Egocentric and Grandiose
Psychopaths have a narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their own self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the center of the universe, justified in living according to their own rules. “It’s not that I don’t follow the law,” said one subject. “I follow my own laws. I never violate my own rules.” She then proceeded to describe these rules in terms of “looking out for number one.” Psychopaths often claim to have specific goals but show little appreciation regarding the qualifications required—they have no idea of how to achieve them and little or no chance of attaining these goals, given their track record and lack of sustained interest in formal education. The psychopathic inmate might outline vague plans to become a lawyer for the poor or a property tycoon. One inmate, not particularly literate, managed to copyright the title of a book he was planning to write about himself, already counting the fortune his best-selling book would bring.

Lack of Remorse or Guilt
Psychopaths show a stunning lack of concern for the effects their actions have on others, no matter how devastating these might be. They may appear completely forthright about the matter, calmly stating that they have no sense of guilt, are not sorry for the ensuing pain, and that there is no reason now to be concerned. When asked if he had any regrets about stabbing a robbery victim who subsequently spent time in the hospital as a result of his wounds, one of our subjects replied, “Get real! He spends a few months in hospital and I rot here. If I wanted to kill him I would have slit his throat. That’s the kind of guy I am; I gave him a break.” Their lack of remorse or guilt is associated with a remarkable ability to rationalize their behavior, to shrug off personal responsibility for actions that cause family, friends, and others to reel with shock and disappointment. They usually have handy excuses for their behavior, and in some cases deny that it happened at all.

Lack of Empathy
Many of the characteristics displayed by psychopaths are closely associated with a profound lack of empathy and inability to construct a mental and emotional “facsimile” of another person. They seem completely unable to “get into the skin” of others, except in a purely intellectual sense. They are completely indifferent to the rights and suffering of family and strangers alike. If they do maintain ties, it is only because they see family members as possessions. One of our subjects allowed her boyfriend to sexually molest her five-year-old daughter because “he wore me out. I wasn’t ready for more sex that night.” The woman found it hard to understand why the authorities took her child into care.

Deceitful and Manipulative
With their powers of imagination in gear and beamed on themselves, psychopaths appear amazingly unfazed by the possibility—or even by the certainty—of being found out. When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they seldom appear perplexed or embarrassed—they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so they appear to be consistent with the lie. The result is a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener. And psychopaths seem proud of their ability to lie. When asked if she lied easily, one woman laughed and replied, “I’m the best. I think it’s because I sometimes admit to something bad about myself. They think, well, if she’s admitting to that she must be telling the truth about the rest.”

Shallow Emotions
Psychopaths seem to suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feelings. At times they appear to be cold and unemotional while nevertheless being prone to dramatic, shallow, and short-lived displays of feeling. Careful observers are left with the impression they are playacting and little is going on below the surface. A psychopath in our research said that he didn’t really understand what others meant by fear. “When I rob a bank,” he said, “I notice that the teller shakes. One barfed all over the money. She must have been pretty messed up inside, but I don’t know why. If someone pointed a gun at me I guess I’d be afraid, but I wouldn’t throw up.” When asked if he ever felt his heart pound or his stomach churn, he replied, “Of course! I’m not a robot. I really get pumped up when I have sex or when I get into a fight.”

Impulsive
Psychopaths are unlikely to spend much time weighing the pros and cons of a course of action or considering the possible consequences. “I did it because I felt like it,” is a common response. These impulsive acts often result from an aim that plays a central role in most of the psychopath’s behavior: to achieve immediate satisfaction, pleasure, or relief. So family members, relatives, employers, and coworkers typically find themselves standing around asking themselves what happened—jobs are quit, relationships broken off, plans changed, houses ransacked, people hurt, often for what appears as little more than a whim. As the husband of a psychopath I studied put it: “She got up and left the table, and that was the last I saw of her for two months.”

Poor Behavior Controls
Besides being impulsive, psychopaths are highly reactive to perceived insults or slights. Most of us have powerful inhibitory controls over our behavior; even if we would like to respond aggressively we are usually able to “keep the lid on.” In psychopaths, these inhibitory controls are weak, and the slightest provocation is sufficient to overcome them. As a result, psychopaths are short-tempered or hotheaded and tend to respond to frustration, failure, discipline, and criticism with sudden violence, threats or verbal abuse. But their outbursts, extreme as they may be, are often short-lived, and they quickly act as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. For example, an inmate in line for dinner was accidentally bumped by another inmate, whom he proceeded to beat senseless. The attacker then stepped back into line as if nothing had happened. Despite the fact that he faced solitary confinement as punishment for the infraction, his only comment when asked to explain himself was, “I was pissed off. He stepped into my space. I did what I had to do. Although psychopaths have a “hair trigger,” their aggressive displays are “cold”; they lack the intense arousal experienced when other individuals lose their temper.

A Need for Excitement
Psychopaths have an ongoing and excessive need for excitement—they long to live in the fast lane or “on the edge,” where the action is. In many cases the action involves the breaking of rules. Many psychopaths describe “doing crime” for excitement or thrills. When asked if she ever did dangerous things just for fun, one of our female psychopaths replied, “Yeah, lots of things. But what I find most exciting is walking through airports with drugs. Christ! What a high!” The flip side of this yen for excitement is an inability to tolerate routine or monotony. Psychopaths are easily bored and are not likely to engage in activities that are dull, repetitive, or require intense concentration over long periods.

Lack of Responsibility
Obligations and commitments mean nothing to psychopaths. Their good intentions—”I’ll never cheat on you again”—are promises written on the wind. Horrendous credit histories, for example, reveal the lightly taken debt, the loan shrugged off, the empty pledge to contribute to a child’s support. Their performance on the job is erratic, with frequent absences, misuse of company resources, violations of company policy, and general untrustworthiness. They do not honor formal or implied commitments to people, organizations, or principles. Psychopaths are not deterred by the possibility that their actions mean hardship or risk for others. A 25-year-old inmate in our studies has received more than 20 convictions for dangerous driving, driving while impaired, leaving the scene of an accident, driving without a license, and criminal negligence causing death. When asked if he would continue to drive after his release from prison, he replied, “Why not? Sure, I drive fast, but I’m good at it. It takes two to have an accident.”

Early Behavior Problems
Most psychopaths begin to exhibit serious behavioral problems at an early age. These might include persistent lying, cheating, theft, arson, truancy, substance abuse, vandalism, and/or precocious sexuality. Because many children exhibit some of these behaviors at one time or another—especially children raised in violent neighborhoods or in disrupted or abusive families—it is important to emphasize that the psychopath’s history of such behaviors is more extensive and serious than most, even when compared with that of siblings and friends raised in similar settings. One subject, serving time for fraud, told us that as a child he would put a noose around the neck of a cat, tie the other end of the string to the top of a pole, and bat the cat around the pole with a tennis racket. Although not all adult psychopaths exhibited this degree of cruelty when in their youth, virtually all routinely got themselves into a wide range of difficulties.

Adult Antisocial Behavior
Psychopaths see the rules and expectations of society as inconvenient and unreasonable impediments to their own behavioral expression. They make their own rules, both as children and as adults. Many of the antisocial acts of psychopaths lead to criminal charges and convictions. Even within the criminal population, psychopaths stand out, largely because the antisocial and illegal activities of psychopaths are more varied and frequent than are those of other criminals. Psychopaths tend to have no particular affinity, or “specialty,” for one particular type of crime but tend to try everything. But not all psychopaths end up in jail. Many of the things they do escape detection or prosecution, or are on “the shady side of the law.” For them, antisocial behavior may consist of phony stock promotions, questionable business practices, spouse or child abuse, and so forth. Many others do things that, though not necessarily illegal, are nevertheless unethical, immoral, or harmful to others: philandering or cheating on a spouse to name a few.

Origins
Thinking about psychopathy leads us very quickly to a single fundamental question: Why are some people like this? Unfortunately, the forces that produce a psychopath are still obscure, an admission those looking for clear answers will find unsatisfying. Nevertheless, there are several rudimentary theories about the cause of psychopathy worth considering. At one end of the spectrum are theories that view psychopathy as largely the product of genetic or biological factors (nature), whereas theories at the other end posit that psychopathy results entirely from a faulty early social environment (nurture). The position that I favor is that psychopathy emerges from a complex—and poorly understood—interplay between biological factors and social forces. It is based on evidence that genetic factors contribute to the biological bases of brain function and to basic personality structure, which in turn influence the way an individual responds to, and interacts with, life experiences and the social environment. In effect, the core elements needed for the development of psychopathy—including a profound inability to experience empathy and the complete range of emotions, including fear—are in part provided by nature and possibly by some unknown biological influences on the developing fetus and neonate. As a result, the capacity for developing internal controls and conscience and for making emotional “connections” with others is greatly reduced.

Can Anything Be Done?
In their desperate search for solutions people trapped in a destructive and seemingly hopeless relationship with a psychopath frequently are told: Quit indulging him and send him for therapy. A basic assumption of psychotherapy is that the patient needs and wants help for distressing or painful psychological and emotional problems. Successful therapy also requires that the patient actively participate, along with the therapist, in the search for relief of his or her symptoms. In short, the patient must recognize there is a problem and must want to do something about it. But here is the crux: Psychopaths don’t feel they have psychological or emotional problems, and they see no reason to change their behavior to conform with societal standards they do not agree with. Thus, in spite of more than a century of clinical study and decades of research, the mystery of the psychopath still remains. Recent developments have provided us with new insights into the nature of this disturbing disorder, and its borders are becoming more defined. But compared with other major clinical disorders, little research has been devoted to psychopathy, even though it is responsible for more social distress and disruption than all other psychiatric disorders combined. So, rather than trying to pick up the pieces after the damage has been done, it would make far greater sense to increase our efforts to understand this perplexing disorder and to search for effective early interventions. The alternatives are to continue devoting massive resources to the prosecution, incarceration, and supervision of psychopaths after they have committed offenses against society and to continue to ignore the welfare and plight of their victims. We have to learn how to socialize them, not resocialize them. And this will require serious efforts at research and early intervention. It is imperative that we continue the search for clues.

{Excerpted from Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us (Simon & Schuster) by Robert Hare, Ph.D. Copyright 1993.}

A Survival Guide
Although no one is completely immune to the devious machinations of the psychopath, there are some things you can do to reduce your vulnerability.

  • Know what you are dealing with. This sounds easy but in fact can be very difficult. All the reading in the world cannot immunize you from the devastating effects of psychopaths. Everyone, including the experts, can be taken in, conned, and left bewildered by them. A good psychopath can play a concerto on anyone’s heart strings.
  • Try not to be influenced by “props.” It is not easy to get beyond the winning smile, the captivating body language, the fast talk of the typical psychopath, all of which blind us to his or her real intentions. Many people find it difficult to deal with the intense, “predatory state” of the psychopath. The fixated stare, is more a prelude to self-gratification and the exercise of power rather than simple interest or empathic caring.
  • Don’t wear blinders. Enter new relationships with your eyes wide open. Like the rest of us, most psychopathic con artists and “love-thieves” initially hide their dark side by putting their “best foot forward.” Cracks may soon begin to appear in the mask they wear, but once trapped in their web, it will be difficult to escape financially and emotionally unscathed.
  • Keep your guard up in high-risk situations. Some situations are tailor-made for psychopaths: singles bars, ship cruises, foreign airports, etc. In each case, the potential victim is lonely, looking for a good time, excitement, or companionship, and there will usually be someone willing to oblige, for a hidden price.
  • Know yourself. Psychopaths are skilled at detecting and ruthlessly exploiting your weak spots. Your best defense is to understand what these spots are, and to be extremely wary of anyone who zeroes in on them.

Unfortunately, even the most careful precautions are no guarantee that you will be safe from a determined psychopath. In such cases, all you can do is try to exert some sort of damage control. This is not easy but some suggestions may be of help:

  • Obtain professional advice. Make sure the clinician you consult is familiar with the literature on psychopathy and has had experience in dealing with psychopaths.
  • Don’t blame yourself. Whatever the reasons for being involved with a psychopath, it is important that you not accept blame for his or her attitudes and behavior. Psychopaths play by the same rules—their rules—with everyone.
  • Be aware of who the victim is. Psychopaths often give the impression that it is they who are suffering and that the victims are to blame for their misery. Don’t waste your sympathy on them.
  • Recognize that you are not alone. Most psychopaths have lots of victims. It is certain that a psychopath who is causing you grief is also causing grief to others.
  • Be careful about power struggles. Keep in mind that psychopaths have a strong need for psychological and physical control over others. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stand up for your rights, but it will probably be difficult to do so without risking serious emotional or physical trauma.
  • Set firm ground rules. Although power struggles with a psychopath are risky you may be able to set up some clear rules—both for yourself and for the psychopath—to make your life easier and begin the difficult transition from victim to a person looking out for yourself.
  • Don’t expect dramatic changes. To a large extent, the personality of psychopaths is “carved in stone.” There is little likelihood that anything you do will produce fundamental, sustained changes in how they see themselves or others.
  • Cut your losses. Most victims of psychopaths end up feeling confused and hopeless, and convinced that they are largely to blame for the problem. The more you give in the more you will be taken advantage of by the psychopath’s insatiable appetite for power and control.
  • Use support groups. By the time your suspicions have led you to seek a diagnosis, you already know that you’re in for a very long and bumpy ride. Make sure you have all the emotional support you can muster.

http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2009/12/08_survival_of_kindest.shtml
Social scientists build case for ‘survival of the kindest’
by Yasmin Anwar, Media Relations | 08 December 2009

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are challenging long-held beliefs that human beings are wired to be selfish. In a wide range of studies, social scientists are amassing a growing body of evidence to show we are evolving to become more compassionate and collaborative in our quest to survive and thrive. In contrast to “every man for himself” interpretations of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychologist and author of “Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life,” and his fellow social scientists are building the case that humans are successful as a species precisely because of our nurturing, altruistic and compassionate traits. They call it “survival of the kindest.”

“Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others,” said Keltner, co-director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. “Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate. As Darwin long ago surmised, sympathy is our strongest instinct.”


http://www.ted.com/speakers/isabel_behncke_izquierdo.html

Empathy in our genes
Keltner’s team is looking into how the human capacity to care and cooperate is wired into particular regions of the brain and nervous system. One recent study found compelling evidence that many of us are genetically predisposed to be empathetic. The study, led by UC Berkeley graduate student Laura Saslow and Sarina Rodrigues of Oregon State University, found that people with a particular variation of the oxytocin gene receptor are more adept at reading the emotional state of others, and get less stressed out under tense circumstances. Informally known as the “cuddle hormone,” oxytocin is secreted into the bloodstream and the brain, where it promotes social interaction, nurturing and romantic love, among other functions. “The tendency to be more empathetic may be influenced by a single gene,” Rodrigues said.

The more you give, the more respect you get
While studies show that bonding and making social connections can make for a healthier, more meaningful life, the larger question some UC Berkeley researchers are asking is, “How do these traits ensure our survival and raise our status among our peers?” One answer, according to UC Berkeley social psychologist and sociologist Robb Willer is that the more generous we are, the more respect and influence we wield. In one recent study, Willer and his team gave participants each a modest amount of cash and directed them to play games of varying complexity that would benefit the “public good.” The results, published in the journal American Sociological Review, showed that participants who acted more generously received more gifts, respect and cooperation from their peers and wielded more influence over them. “The findings suggest that anyone who acts only in his or her narrow self-interest will be shunned, disrespected, even hated,” Willer said. “But those who behave generously with others are held in high esteem by their peers and thus rise in status. Given how much is to be gained through generosity, social scientists increasingly wonder less why people are ever generous and more why they are ever selfish,” he added.

Cultivating the greater good
Such results validate the findings of such “positive psychology” pioneers as Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania whose research in the early 1990s shifted away from mental illness and dysfunction, delving instead into the mysteries of human resilience and optimism. While much of the positive psychology being studied around the nation is focused on personal fulfillment and happiness, UC Berkeley researchers have narrowed their investigation into how it contributes to the greater societal good. One outcome is the campus’s Greater Good Science Center, a West Coast magnet for research on gratitude, compassion, altruism, awe and positive parenting, whose benefactors include the Metanexus Institute, Tom and Ruth Ann Hornaday and the Quality of Life Foundation.

Christine Carter, executive director of the Greater Good Science Center, is creator of the “Science for Raising Happy Kids” Web site, whose goal, among other things, is to assist in and promote the rearing of “emotionally literate” children. Carter translates rigorous research into practical parenting advice. She says many parents are turning away from materialistic or competitive activities, and rethinking what will bring their families true happiness and well-being. “I’ve found that parents who start consciously cultivating gratitude and generosity in their children quickly see how much happier and more resilient their children become,” said Carter, author of “Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents” which will be in bookstores in February 2010. “What is often surprising to parents is how much happier they themselves also become.”

The sympathetic touch
As for college-goers, UC Berkeley psychologist Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton has found that cross-racial and cross-ethnic friendships can improve the social and academic experience on campuses. In one set of findings, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, he found that the cortisol levels of both white and Latino students dropped as they got to know each over a series of one-on-one get-togethers. Cortisol is a hormone triggered by stress and anxiety. Meanwhile, in their investigation of the neurobiological roots of positive emotions, Keltner and his team are zeroing in on the aforementioned oxytocin as well as the vagus nerve, a uniquely mammalian system that connects to all the body’s organs and regulates heart rate and breathing.

Both the vagus nerve and oxytocin play a role in communicating and calming. In one UC Berkeley study, for example, two people separated by a barrier took turns trying to communicate emotions to one another by touching one other through a hole in the barrier. For the most part, participants were able to successfully communicate sympathy, love and gratitude and even assuage major anxiety.

Researchers were able to see from activity in the threat response region of the brain that many of the female participants grew anxious as they waited to be touched. However, as soon as they felt a sympathetic touch, the vagus nerve was activated and oxytocin was released, calming them immediately. “Sympathy is indeed wired into our brains and bodies; and it spreads from one person to another through touch,” Keltner said. The same goes for smaller mammals. UC Berkeley psychologist Darlene Francis and Michael Meaney, a professor of biological psychiatry and neurology at McGill University, found that rat pups whose mothers licked, groomed and generally nurtured them showed reduced levels of stress hormones, including cortisol, and had generally more robust immune systems.

Overall, these and other findings at UC Berkeley challenge the assumption that nice guys finish last, and instead support the hypothesis that humans, if adequately nurtured and supported, tend to err on the side of compassion. “This new science of altruism and the physiological underpinnings of compassion is finally catching up with Darwin’s observations nearly 130 years ago, that sympathy is our strongest instinct,” Keltner said.



WHAT DARWIN SAID
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/born-be-good/200902/darwins-touch-survival-the-kindest
Darwin’s Touch: Survival of the Kindest
by Dacher Keltner / February 11, 2009

Two hundred years ago on February 12, Adam Gopnik writes in Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life, two pebbles — Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln — were dropped into the sea of life. Their ideas and forms of eloquence have redirected the currents of humanity. One current of Darwin’s thought is well-known. His theory of evolution by natural selection would require new genesis stories about the origins of life forms, less arrogant notions about man’s place in the great chain of being, and a rethinking of our species as one in flux—and with rather hairy relatives.

Less well-known is a second current of Darwin’s thought — his conception of human nature. Think of Darwin and “survival of the fittest” leaps to mind, as do images of competitive individuals — collections of selfish genes — going at one another bloody in tooth and claw. “Survival of the fittest” was not Darwin’s phrase, but Herbert Spencer’s and that of Social Darwinists who used Darwin to justify their wished-for superiority of different classes and races. “Survival of the kindest” better captures Darwin’s thinking about his own kind.

In Darwin’s first book about humans, The Descent of Man, and Selection In Relation to Sex from 1871, Darwin argued for “the greater strength of the social or maternal instincts than that of any other instinct or motive.” His reasoning was disarmingly intuitive: in our hominid predecessors, communities of more sympathetic individuals were more successful in raising healthier offspring to the age of viability and reproduction — the sine qua non of evolution. One year later, in The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, Darwin countered creationists’ claims that God had designed humans with special facial muscles to express uniquely human moral sentiments like sympathy. Instead, drawing upon observations of his children, animals at the London zoo, and his faithful dogs, Darwin showed how our moral sentiments are expressed in mammalian patterns of behavior. In his analysis of suffering, for example, Darwin builds from pure empirical observation to a radical conclusion: the oblique eyebrows, compressed lips, tears, and groans of human suffering have their parallels in the whining of monkeys and elephants’ tears. To be a mammal is to suffer. To be a mammal is to feel the strongest of Darwin’s instincts — sympathy.

The expression of sympathy, Darwin observed, was to be found in mammalian patterns of tactile contact. Inspired by this observation, Matthew Hertenstein and I conducted a recent study of emotion and touch that was as much a strange act of performance art as hardheaded science. Two participants, a toucher and touchee, sat on opposite sides of a barrier that we built in a laboratory room. They therefore could not see nor hear one another, and could only communicate via that five digit wonder, the hand, making contact on skin. The touchee bravely poked his or her arm through a curtain-covered opening in the barrier, and received 12 different touches to the forearm from the toucher, who in each instance was trying to communicate a different emotion. For each touch, the touchee guessed which emotion was being conveyed. With one second touches to the forearm, our participants could reliably communicate sympathy, love, and gratitude with rates of accuracy seven times as high as those produced by chance guessing.

Sympathetic touches are processed by receptors under the surface of the skin, and set in motion a cascade of beneficial physiological responses. In one recent study, female participants waiting anxiously for an electric shock showed activation in threat-related regions of the brain, a response quickly turned off when their hands were held by loved ones nearby. Friendly touch stimulates activation in the vagus nerve, a bundle of nerves in the chest that calms fight-or-flight cardiovascular response and triggers the release of oxytocin, which enables feelings of trust.

Research by Darlene Francis and Michael Meaney reveals that sympathetic environments — those filled with warm touch — create individuals better suited to survival and reproduction, as Darwin long ago surmised. Rat pups who receive high levels of tactile contact from their mothers — in the form of licking, grooming, and close bodily contact — later as mature rats show reduced levels of stress hormones in response to being restrained, explore novel environments with greater gusto, show fewer stress-related neurons in the brain, and have more robust immune systems. Were he alive today, Darwin would likely have found modest delight in seeing two of his hypotheses confirmed: sympathy is indeed wired into our brains and bodies; and it spreads from one person to another through touch. Darwin, the great fact amasser that he was, would no doubt have compiled these new findings on sympathy and touch in one of his many notebooks (now a folder on a laptop). He may have titled that folder “Survival of the kindest.”


‘GLOBAL COMPASSION’
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/paul_ekmans_taxonomy_of_compassion/
Paul Ekman’s Taxonomy of Compassion
by Paul Ekman / June 21, 2010

Below is a guide to understanding what these varying forms of compassion are and why they’re so important.

Emotion Recognition is the easiest—the sine qua non. It’s knowing how another person is feeling. Most people don’t need to be taught it, though people with Asperger’s, autism, or schizoprenia do. Realize that the torturer needs emotion recognition: to know how you feel doesn’t imply whether I’m going to try to relieve your suffering or inflict it, or just have no concern. But if I don’t know how you’re feeling, everything else just falls by the wayside.

Emotional Resonance is what Bill Clinton does: “I feel your pain.” I distinguish between two types of resonance: Identical Resonance is when you realize that someone is in pain and you actually physically experience that same feeling yourself. But when you say, “Oh, you poor baby! I’m so sorry you’re feeling that way. What can I do to help you?”—that’s Reactive Resonance. Everybody loves people who resonate; resonance is crucial to our relationships with our loved ones. But if you’re like my daughter, an emergency room worker in San Francisco’s only trauma center, if you feel other people’s pain for 8 or 12 hours a day, you’ll burn out. The Dalai Lama says he feels others’ pain, but just very slightly and just for a few seconds, then it passes.
Not everyone resonates: There’s reason to believe that people with anti-social personalities don’t resonate, but they’re able to act as if they resonate, because they know other people like it, and that allows them to manipulate others.

Familial Compassion is the seed of compassion, planted through the caregiver-offspring bond. It raises very interesting questions about people who were brought up without a single caregiver, or were brought up with a parent who had a very distant attachment. What is their capacity for compassion? Both the Dalai Lama and Darwin would say that they’re going to have problems—without the seed, the flower won’t grow.

Global Compassion was exemplified by the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. People around the world extended assistance to strangers, of different races and skin colors. Now, we know that not everybody has it—a lot of people acted, and a lot of people didn’t. How do we cultivate global compassion? I consider this one of the most crucial questions for the survival of our children and grandchildren, because the planet won’t survive without global compassion. We’ve got to try to see what we can learn from those who have it without training.

Sentient Compassion is when you extend feelings of compassion toward cockroaches, toward any living being. We don’t know whether people who have global compassion have sentient compassion. But my hunch is that if you’ve got sentient, you’ve got global. The Dalai Lama and Darwin agree that sentient is the highest moral virtue.

Heroic Compassion is like altruism with a risk. It has two forms: Immediate Heroic Compassion is when, without thought, you jump onto the subway tracks to rescue someone. It’s impulsive. Considered Heroic Compassion isn’t done impulsively; it’s done with thought, and it can be maintained for many years. Kristen Monroe, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine, has done a study of people with heroic compassion, and here are her criteria for it: 1) you must act—not just think about how good it would be to act; 2) your goal is the welfare of the other person; 3) your action has consequences for that person; 4) there’s a good possibility your actions will diminish your own welfare—you’re putting yourself at risk; 5) and you have no anticipation of reward or recognition.

DO the MATH
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928045.200-the-mathematics-of-being-nice.html
The mathematics of being nice
by Michael Marshall / 21 March 2011

Using mathematics to tackle some of biology’s biggest questions, Martin Nowak has concluded that an ability to cooperate is the secret of humanity’s success. He talks to Michael Marshallabout drawing fire from Richard Dawkins, the perils of punishment, and devising the mathematical equivalent of the rules of religion

Q. Why are you so fascinated by our ability to help each other out?
A. Cooperation is interesting because it essentially means that you help someone else, someone who is a potential competitor. You reduce your own success in order to increase the success of somebody else. Why should you do that? Why should natural selection favour such behaviour? To answer these questions I use evolutionary dynamics, evolutionary game theory and experimental tests of human behaviour.

Q. You say there are five different ways in which we cooperate that give us an edge, in terms of natural selection. Tell me about them.
A. The first one is called direct reciprocity. This is when individuals have repeated interactions, so if I help you now, you may help me later. There is also indirect reciprocity, which takes place in groups. If I help you, somebody else might see our interaction and conclude that I’m a helpful person, and help me later. That’s a reciprocal process relying on reputation. The third mechanism is when neighbours help each other – cooperators survive in clusters. This is called spatial selection, and it plays an important role, not only for people but for bacteria, animals and plants. Then there is group selection: it may be that our group of cooperators is better off than another group of defectors: here selection acts on two levels, because in our group there is more cooperation.

Q. Group selection has had a tricky reputation, and has been attacked by evolutionary biologists. Do you think it has now been rehabilitated?
A. The introduction of the concept of group selection, some 40 years ago, was imprecise. But recent mathematical models explain very clearly when group selection can promote the evolution of cooperation. There must be competition between groups and migration rates should be low.

Q. Unless I’ve lost count, there should be one mechanism left.
A. The last one is kin selection, which can occur when you help a close relative.

Q. You published a paper on kin selection last year that caused a bit of controversy.
A. I have no problem with kin selection when it is properly formulated. My criticism is directed against the current use of inclusive fitness theory, which is the dominant mathematical approach used to study aspects of kin selection.

Q. Can you explain?
A. Inclusive fitness theory assumes that the personal fitness of an individual can be partitioned into components caused by individual actions. This restrictive assumption implies that inclusive fitness theory is a limited approach that cannot be used to describe typical situations that arise in social evolution. The standard theory of natural selection does not make such a limiting assumption. In that recent paper we showed that inclusive fitness theory is a subset of the standard theory.

Q. Inclusive fitness is a key concept of evolutionary biology. No wonder that many biologists, including Richard Dawkins, reacted negatively when you attacked it (New Scientist, 2 October 2010, p 8). Do you think people are now coming around to it?
A. I feel that it is beginning to be appreciated. I would say the negative response rests on a misinterpretation of the paper. People think that we are saying relatedness is unimportant, but this is not at all what we said. People who are open-minded are beginning to realise that the results of our paper are beautiful: simple mathematical models based on standard natural selection are sufficient to explain the evolution of eusociality or other phenomena in social evolution. The strange mathematical contortions of inclusive fitness theory are unnecessary. In other words if you are interested in a mathematical description of evolution, a situation can never arise in which you would need an inclusive fitness approach.

Q. You have also been involved in some other big debates. Can you tell me about your work on punishment?
A. Many people feel that punishment is a good thing, that it leads to human cooperation. So their idea is that unless you cooperate with me, I punish you. It might even cost me something to punish you, but I do it because I want to teach you a lesson. One cannot deny that punishment is an important component of human behaviour, but I am sceptical about the idea that it’s a positive component. I have analysed the role of punishment using mathematics and experiments. I think that most uses of punishment are very much for selfish interests, such as defending your position in the group. Punishment leads to retaliation and vendettas. It’s very rare that punishment is used nobly.

Q. Over the years you’ve applied mathematics to a lot of different areas of biology. Is it your aim to put the whole field on a mathematical footing?
A. Yes. It has happened in many disciplines of science. It’s a kind of maturation process. Without a mathematical description, we can get a rough handle on a phenomenon but we can’t fully understand it. In physics, that’s completely clear. You don’t just talk about gravity, you quantify your description of it. The beautiful thing about mathematics is that it can decide an argument. Some things are fiercely debated for years, but with mathematics the issues become clear.

Q. Unlike most evolutionary biologists, you are religious. Do you think it is a problem for the public perception of evolution that it is seen as supporting atheism?
A. In my opinion, a purely scientific interpretation of evolution does not generate an argument in favour of atheism. Science does not disprove God or replace religion. Evolution is not an argument against God, any more than gravity is. Evolution explains the unfolding of life on Earth. The God of Christianity is “that without which there would be no evolution at all”.

Q. So how do you see religion?
A. I see the teachings of world religions as an analysis of human life and an attempt to help. They intend to promote unselfish behaviour, love and forgiveness. When you look at mathematical models for the evolution of cooperation you also find that winning strategies must be generous, hopeful and forgiving. In a sense, the world’s religions hit on these ideas first, thousands of years ago. Now, for the first time, we can see these ideas in terms of mathematics. Who would have thought that you could prove mathematically that, in a world where everybody is out for himself, the winning strategy is to be forgiving, and that those who cannot forgive can never win?

Q. Do you feel isolated from other evolutionary biologists because of your religious beliefs?
A. No, I don’t think it’s an issue. I once had a great discussion with another biologist about science and religion. He was deeply religious. Two weeks later I read that he had been made head of the US National Institutes of Health. He is Francis Collins.

{Martin Nowak is professor of mathematics and biology at Harvard University. He has a PhD from the University of Vienna, Austria, became professor of theoretical biology at the University of Oxford aged 32, then moved to Princeton University and later to Harvard. His book SuperCooperators: Altruism, evolution, and why we need each other to succeed, co-authored with Roger HighfieldNew Scientist‘s editor, is out this month.}

POLAR VISION
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13529152
Tests show Arctic reindeer ‘see in UV’
By Neil Bowdler / 26 May 2011

Arctic reindeer can see beyond the “visible” light spectrum into the ultra-violet region, according to new research by an international team. They say tests on reindeer showed that the animal does respond to UV stimuli, unlike humans. The ability might enable them to pick out food and predators in the “UV-rich” Arctic atmosphere, and to retain visibility in low light. Details are published in the The Journal of Experimental Biology.

UV light is invisible to humans. It has a wavelength which is shorter (and more energised) than “visible” light, ranging from 400 nanometres down to 10nm in wavelength. The researchers first established that UV light was able to pass through the lens and cornea of the reindeer eye by firing light through a dissected sample. The tests showed that light down to a wavelength of about 350nm passed into the eye. They then sought to prove that the animals could “see” the light, by testing the electrical response of the retina of anaesthetised reindeer to UV light. “We used what is called an ERG (electroretinography), whereby we record the electrical response to light by the retina by putting a little piece of gold foil on the inside of the eyelid,” co-author Professor Glen Jeffery of University College London told BBC News.

The tests showed that photoreceptor cells or “cones” in the retina did respond to UV light. “If you’re a bumblebee, you wouldn’t think much of what this animal is doing because it’s seeing in what’s called ‘near UV’ (about 320 to 400nm), but that’s still very high energy stuff.” The researchers believe UV vision could enable the reindeer to distinguish food and predators in the “white-out” of the Arctic winter and the twilight of spring and autumn.

Lichen, on which the animal feeds, would appear black to reindeer eyes, they say, because it absorbs UV light. The animal’s traditional predator, wolves, would also appear darker against the snow, as their fur absorbs UV light. Urine in the snow would also be more discernable in UV vision, which might alert reindeer to the scent of predators or other reindeer. Neither did the animal appear to suffer any damage as a result of seeing in UV, say the researchers, or suffer the “snow blindness” humans can experience in the UV-rich Arctic environment.

Professor Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University London, who has explored the UV capabilities of bees, said the study showed what we call the “visible” spectrum did not apply to most of the animal kingdom. “It’s further evidence that UV sensitivity across animals is the rule rather than the exception, and that humans and some other mammals are actually a minority in not having UV sensitivity,” he said. Professor Chittka was not surprised the UV light appeared to do no damage to the reindeer retina. He said the tests suggested the eye would only admit lower-frequency UV light (“UV-A light”) rather than more damaging higher-frequency light (“UV-B”). Further modelling and behavioural tests would also be needed to verify that reindeer’s apparent capacity to detect UV light really did result in “better detection of predators and arctic lichens”, he said.

The same research team which conducted the reindeer tests will soon repeat the same experiments on seals to see whether they can see into the UV region. Professor Jeffery believes many Arctic animals are likely to have the capacity. “There’s no evidence that Arctic foxes or polar bears suffer from snow blindness, so I bet you that most of the Arctic animals up there are seeing into UV.”


CONTACT
Glen Jeffery
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/neuroscience/Page.php?ID=12&ResearcherID=295
email : g.jeffery@ucl.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
http://jeb.biologists.org/content/214/12/2014
“The Arctic has extreme seasonal changes in light levels and is proportionally UV-rich because of scattering of the shorter wavelengths and their reflection from snow and ice. Here we show that the cornea and lens in Arctic reindeer do not block all UV and that the retina responds electrophysiologically to these wavelengths. Both rod and cone photoreceptors respond to UV at low-intensity stimulation. Retinal RNA extraction and in vitro opsin expression show that the response to UV is not mediated by a specific UV photoreceptor mechanism. Reindeer thus extend their visual range into the short wavelengths characteristic of the winter environment and periods of extended twilight present in spring and autumn. A specific advantage of this short-wavelength vision is the use of potential information caused by differential UV reflections known to occur in both Arctic vegetation and different types of snow. UV is normally highly damaging to the retina, resulting in photoreceptor degeneration. Because such damage appears not to occur in these animals, they may have evolved retinal mechanisms protecting against extreme UV exposure present in the daylight found in the snow-covered late winter environment.”

ADAPTATION
http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/health/2011/110526-pr-reindeer-see-ultraviolet-light.aspx
Reindeer see a weird and wonderful world of ultraviolet light / May 31, 2011

Researchers have discovered that the ultraviolet (UV) light that causes the temporary but painful condition of snow blindness in humans is life-saving for reindeer in the arctic. A BBSRC-funded team at UCL has published a paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology that shows that this remarkable visual ability is part of the reindeer’s unique adaptation to the extreme arctic environment where they live. It allows them to take in live-saving information in conditions where normal mammalian vision would make them vulnerable to starvation, predators and territorial conflict. It also raises the question of how reindeer protect their eyes from being damaged by UV, which is thought to be harmful to human vision.

Lead researcher Professor Glen Jeffery said “We discovered that reindeer can not only see ultraviolet light but they can also make sense of the image to find food and stay safe. Humans and almost all other mammals could never do this as our lenses just don’t let UV through into the eye. “In conditions where there is a lot of UV – when surrounded by snow, for example – it can be damaging to our eyes. In the process of blocking UV light from reaching the retina, our cornea and lens absorb its damaging energy and can be temporarily burned. The front of the eye becomes cloudy and so we call this snow blindness. Although this is normally reversible and plays a vital role to protect our sensitive retinas from potential damage, it is very painful.”

Human beings are able to see light with wavelengths ranging from around 700nm, which corresponds to the colour red, right through all the colours of the rainbow in sequence to 400nm, which corresponds to violet. Professor Jeffery and his team tested the reindeer’s vision to see what wavelengths they could see and found that they can handle wavelengths down to around 350-320nm, which is termed ultraviolet, or UV, because it exceeds the extreme of the so-called visible spectrum of colours.

The winter conditions in the arctic are very severe; the ground is covered in snow and the sun is very low on the horizon. At times the sun barely rises in the middle of the day, making it dark for most of the time. Under these conditions light is scattered such that the majority of light that reaches objects is blue or UV. In addition to this, snow can reflect up to 90% of the UV light that falls on it. Professor Jeffery continued “When we used cameras that could pick up UV, we noticed that there are some very important things that absorb UV light and therefore appear black, contrasting strongly with the snow. This includes urine – a sign of predators or competitors; lichens – a major food source in winter; and fur, making predators such as wolves very easy to see despite being camouflaged to other animals that can’t see UV.”

This research raises some interesting questions about the effect of UV on eye health. It had always been assumed that human eyes don’t let UV in because of the potential that it will cause damage, just as it does to our skin. In our eyes, UV could damage our sensitive photoreceptors that cannot be replaced. This would lead to irreversible damage to our vision. Arctic reindeer are able to let UV into their eyes and use the information effectively in their environment without suffering any consequences. Professor Jeffery added “The question remains as to why the reindeer’s eyes don’t seem to be damaged by UV. Perhaps it’s not as bad for eyes as we first thought? Or maybe they have a unique way of protecting themselves, which we could learn from and perhaps develop new strategies to prevent or treat the damage the UV can cause to humans.”

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said “We can learn a lot from studying the fundamental biology of animals and other organisms that live in extreme environments. Understanding their cell and molecular biology, neuroscience, and other aspects of how they work can uncover the biological mechanism that meant they can cope with severe conditions. This knowledge can have an impact on animal welfare and has the potential to be taken forward to new developments that underpin human health and wellbeing.”