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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Friday, June 09, 2006

I'm overweight because you gave me too much food

I heard this rather interesting blurb on the radio yesterday. the DJ was talking about eating out at restaurants, and she was complaining about large portion sizes, for example, the 18-inch platter at Denny's or the five course turkey dinner at Claim Jumper. certainly, that's more food than anyone needs to eat in one sitting, possibly more than a single person needs to eat in a day.

now I'm not saying that the 18-inch breakfast platter or five course turkey dinner are good for a single person to eat in a single sitting. however, I want to step back a moment and question whether it's the restaurant's fault for giving you too much food, or if it's your fault for eating it all. there are a number reasons why the term "fault" isn't quite right in this context. for one, our instincts with respect to food evolved during a time when it wasn't necessarily certain when we'd be getting our next meal (some, such as Daniel Quinn, might disagree on this point). thus, when food is available to us, we try to get as much of it as we can. another thing is that these instincts developed for grazing, not for just sitting and eating single meal. another interesting thing here is to tie this into trends in how dieting literature has changed for the past few centuries. up through the 20th century, being overweight was a moral problem linked to glutony, a sin. if you wanted to lose weight, you were going to have to give things up, you were going to have to make profound sacrifices. as you get into more recent time periods, you get literature like the South Beach Diet or the Atkins diet, which say you can eat as much as you want, even as much as you can, just so long as you eat this certain subset of foods. the reason you're overweight isn't a problem with you, it's a problem with the food. the fault of the foods you eat, not you. similarly, it's not your fault that you can't stop eating and just take the rest home (or that you ordered such a large amount of food), it's the restaurant's fault for serving you so much food.

truly, I don't know where to point the fingers. in all honesty, I'm not sure if pointing fingers is the right way to go about it. it's a personal problem, it's a social problem, it's a cultural problem, and due to the complex nature of the problem, dealing with being overweight on a large scale will likely require a commensurately complex solution.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

physicists find new quantum particle, the emoton

years of research finally paid off for three particle physicists at the UC Irvine yesterday when they were finally able to locate and positively identify the emoton, the quantum particle responsible for the phenomenon of emotion.

"we've known about the existence of the emoton for a long time," said Professor Matthew Cadevish, PI on the team leading the search. "ever since Russell and Mehrabian's 1977 article on the Three-Factor model, we knew that the emoton must exist. all observable phenomena can be quantized -- light by the photon, gravity by the graviton, strong forces by the gluon; there was no reason for emotion to be any different. actually finding it, however, has proven enough of a challenge to last us almost 30 years."

Cadevish's team is more than excited about this result. "finding the emoton will certainly help me finish my dissertation," said Cynthia Plet, a Ph.D. candidate working on the project.

however, their results have not been welcomed with universal acceptance. an opposing research group at CERN was actually working to disprove the existence of the emoton, as it would seal the coffin on emotional theories like LeDoux's, which decomposes emotion not as a quantizable phenomenon but rather as a composition of basic emotions.

others see this discovery as only the beginning. according to Nadiv Guthansa, a professor at Stanford, "to believe that there is only a single emoton is nothing short of fool-hardy." he believes there is room for a theory of emotions that revolves around both quantization and compositions of basic emotions. "just as there are up, down, top, bottom, charm, and strange quarks, so there are happy, sad, angry, scared, and other flavors of emotons." Guthansa recently submitted a paper to the Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics containing an existence proof for no less than sever flavors of emotons.

now that the emoton has been found, we will certainly be seeing a flurry of activity in the field. "despite the quickly arising controversies," says Cadevish, "one thing is certain. the discovery of the emoton will herald a new age of research on emotion as a quantizable phenomenon."