Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Beware of the Killer Bikini Wax!

http://pantv.ca/blogs/smiranda/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/brazilianwax.jpgAll Jennifer (not her real name) wanted was a smooth bikini line. But within 24 hours of getting a wax at a reputable New York City salon, an infection crept in. She developed a fever of 102, chills, and pain in her left thigh. "I thought I'd caught a cold," she says, "but after five days, the pain was worse."

Her doctor diagnosed her with cellulitis, a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection of the skin and the underlying tissue. Jennifer spent the next 15 days in the hospital hooked up to an IV that pumped her full of antibiotics and heavy-duty painkillers. She also had surgery to drain the infection. "One doctor said I could have lost my leg!" she recalls. "It took me months to recover physically and emotionally from the whole ordeal —a steep price to pay for a little vanity."

While there are no reliable stats on waxing-related complications, Jennifer's experience wasn't unique. This past March, the state of New Jersey nearly banned Brazilian waxes after two women landed in the hospital as a result of them (one of the women filed a lawsuit against the state cosmetology board). And in 2007, an Australian woman with type 1 diabetes almost died of a bacterial infection she got after a bare-it-all wax.

What makes them risky? "Pubic hair is there for a reason—to protect the sensitive skin and mucous membranes in the genital region," explains Linda K. Franks, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. "Getting a wax literally strips away that layer of protection."

Waxing can also pull off tiny pieces of the skin's outermost layer, creating a portal through which bacteria can enter the body. What's more, the process creates inflammation, which can trap bacteria beneath the skin. All of this sets the stage for skin infections (including staph), folliculitis (infection of the hair follicles), and ingrown hairs.

"Anytime you compromise the integrity of the skin, you're going to increase your risk of infection," Franks says. She advises people who have diabetes, chronic kidney or liver disease, skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, or weakened immune systems to avoid waxing altogether

via Beware of the Killer Bikini Wax! - MSN Health & Fitness - Health Topics.

Air freshener disrupts RAF parade

Red Telephone BoxA suspicious package which led to an RAF parade being cancelled in Lincolnshire, has turned out to be a phone box air freshener.

A bomb disposal team exploded the black BT device, which was spotted in the red telephone box in Market Place, Boston, by a worried member of the public.

A BT spokesman said air fresheners had been installed in enclosed phone boxes for years without problems.

Boston Borough Council is working with the RAF to rearrange the parade.

The BT spokesman said: "We do put air fresheners in some phone boxes - we like to make the environment as pleasant as possible for people using a payphone to make a call.

"Some people have been known to use phone boxes for reasons other than wanting to phone someone.

"We site the air fresheners discreetly so they don't get vandalised."

A spokesman for Lincolnshire Police said: "We had no idea what it was, it was something we'd never encountered before."

via BBC NEWS | UK | England | Lincolnshire | Air freshener disrupts RAF parade.

When in doubt, blow it up, eh? A sensible policy. Yes, completely sane.

Did grapefruit juice kill Michael Jackson?

Jacko’s heirs may have to sing for their supperMichael Jackson's death could have been caused by grapefruit juice – at least that's one of the more bizarre theories circulating on the web.

The singer was, on the advice of a nutritionist, drinking up to 2litres a day of a grapefruit-rich smoothie for three weeks while he rehearsed for his London concerts.

He is also rumoured to have been addicted to the narcotic painkiller pethidine.

But grapefruit juice contains a substance which stops the liver breaking down pethidine into safe by-products, meaning Jacko could have been unaware a lethal dose of the drug was building up in his blood. This inadvertent overdose would also explain why his breathing was reported to have slowed before his death and tie in with his cause of death, a heart attack.

via Did grapefruit juice kill Michael Jackson? | Metro.co.uk.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tunnel vision

Criminals of all kinds are digging tunnels along the U.S. border at a fast and furious pace. Of every tunnel ever discovered by U.S. border patrol agents, 60 percent have been found in the last three years. Agents spot a new one every month.

"All of them have been found by accident or human intelligence," said Ed Turner, a project manager with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). "None by technology."

To battle these secret burrows in the 21st century, S&T thinks this will have to change. In partnership with Lockheed Martin, DHS S&T is pursuing a fresh approach that uses sophisticated ground penetrating radar. The Tunnel Detection Project is part of the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), a distinct office within S&T set up to think out-of-the-box. HSARPA invests in concepts offering the potential for revolutionary changes in homeland security technologies. If successful, the tunnel detection technology will help agents locate and plug tunnels almost as fast as the criminals can dig them.

While most tunnels are used to move drugs or people, they could also be used to move in weapons and explosives for a terrorist attack. Tunnels are a serious challenge for border patrol agents because they can begin and end almost anywhere; their entrances and exits are often hidden inside old warehouses or under trees; if old ones are discovered, new ones are quickly begun.

Initially, S&T explored the possibility of an unmanned aircraft equipped with radar technology that would fly along the border searching for tunnels. While this concept remains a goal, Department scientists and agents realize that most of the existing tunnels run through large urban centers where they are difficult to spot from satellite imagery. In addition, the airborne radar's radio frequency signals pose privacy concerns if they cross into someone's home.

The new design technology is to place the radar antennas in a trailer that will be towed by a Border Patrol truck. The antennas shoot a signal directly into the ground and use it to construct a multi-colored picture of the earth. Tunnels show up as red, yellow, and aquamarine dots against a blue background. Border patrols agents would see these images on a monitor mounted inside their truck.

Ground penetrating radar is a promising technology because it is already used by civil engineers to reconstruct underground images.

via Tunnel vision.

Everything Works Out Fine, YouTube Video

Thanks to JES for putting images to my song Everything Works Out Fine.

Is Michael Jackson Really Dead?

Recent appearances of Michael Jackson have prompted rumours by many fans that Michael Jackson has employed a “look-alike” body double to carry the burden of the up-coming world tour.

The shock news that pop legend Michael Jackson has suffered a fatal cardiac arrest at the age of 50 has sent his fans reeling. The big question is, was it really Michael Jackson who died?

Many who watched the press announcement for the up-coming world tour were convinced that it was not the real Jacko…….but a body double that faced the eager press.

Many devoted fans watching world tour announcement and other recent appearances commented that his hands, face, stature and general demeanour and mannerisms were unfamiliar (beyond any consequences of physical surgery), leading to rumours of a body double.

For a 50 year old man who has been rumoured to have suffered from Skin Cancer, Skin Disease, a debilitating Spider Bite, requirement for a lung transplant, addiction to Vicodin, nervous exhaustion, cosmetic surgery complications, to name a few, the prospect of a strenuous world tour would be a virtual impossibility.

Music journalists reported on sky news on the night of the announcement of his death that Michael Jackson was only contracted to perform for a few minutes on stage for each of the tour dates, suggesting that a well trained “look-alike” may stand in, secretly, for the bulk of the performances.

via Is Michael Jackson Really Dead? | Newsflavor.

It is kind of a tradition, perhaps started by Elvis (or was it Hitler?), that if you get world famous (or infamous), there will be rumors that the news of your death has been greatly exaggerated.

Uranium Found on the Moon

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_e3gDaHO8VLQ/SRvSj-BPy0I/AAAAAAAAGUc/ejHjMpxS2XM/s320/moon_rocks.jpgUranium exists on the moon, according to new data from a Japanese spacecraft.

The findings are the first conclusive evidence for the presence of the radioactive element in lunar dirt, the researchers said. They announced the discovery recently at the 40th Lunar and Planetary Conference and at the Proceedings of the International Workshop Advances in Cosmic Ray Science.

The revelation suggests that nuclear power plants could be built on the moon, or even that Earth's satellite could serve as a mining source for uranium needed back home.

The Japanese Kaguya spacecraft, which was launched in 2007, detected uranium with a gamma-ray spectrometer. Scientists are using the instrument to create maps of the moon's surface composition, showing the presence of thorium, potassium, oxygen, magnesium, silicon, calcium, titanium and iron.

"We've already gotten uranium results, which have never been reported before," said Robert Reedy, a senior scientist at the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute, and a member of the Kaguya science team. "We're getting more new elements and refining and confirming results found on the old maps."

The findings could help decide where to build future lunar colonies, since manned outposts will need energy, and could potentially derive it from nuclear power plants.

Furthermore, since uranium supplies on Earth are scarce, mining uranium on the moon to satisfy our energy needs at home could prove lucrative.

Kaguya, officially named SELENE ("Selenological and Engineering Explorer"), crashed into the lunar surface at the end of its mission on June 10.

via Uranium Found on the Moon - Yahoo! News.

Nurse: Surgeon Threw Human Tissue on Her

http://www.emergiblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/05/em-1953nurses.jpgA Colorado nurse says a heart surgeon tossed bloody human tissue at her during an operation, then the hospital demoted her after she complained.

Sonja Morris is suing Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. In papers filed Friday, Morris claims that Dr. Bryan Mahan tossed a piece of human heart tissue at her during a 2008 open-heart surgery. Morris said the 4-by-6-inch piece of protective heart tissue hit her on the leg and that Mahan joked about throwing it.

Morris says she was demoted off a heart surgery team after complaining about the tissue incident and other harassment.

The lawsuit names only the hospital, not the surgeon. A Memorial Hospital spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

via Nurse: Surgeon Threw Human Tissue on Her.

Nearly one in five Italians trusts sorcerers

Nearly one in five Italians trusts sorcerers: watchdog Nearly 18 percent of the Italian population -- 11 million people -- trusts self-styled sorcerers and healers, a consumer watchdog said in a report Monday.

The group Telefono Antiplagio found more than 16,000 cases of people being scammed by sorcerers and healers since 1994. There are 155,000 sorcerers and healers active in Italy.

Every day, 33,000 people see sorcerers or astrologers in Italy, the study found.

The top reason for seeing a sorcerer is to soothe a broken heart (46 percent), followed by health problems (25 percent), violence (22 percent) and trouble at work (seven percent).

via Nearly one in five Italians trusts sorcerers: watchdog - Yahoo! News.

The panopticon economy

Surrounded by barbwire fencing, the anonymous yet massive building on West Military Drive near San Antonio’s Loop 410 freeway looms mysteriously with no identifying signs of any kind. Surveillance is tight, with security cameras surrounding the under-construction building. Readers are advised not to take any photos unless you care to be detained for at least a 45-minute interrogation by the National Security Agency, as this reporter was.

There’s a strangely blurry line during such an interrogation. After viewing the five photos I’d taken of the NSA’s new Texas Cryptology Center, the NSA officer asked if I would delete them. When I asked if he was ordering me to do so, he said no; he was asking as a personal favor. I declined and was eventually released.

America’s top spy agency has taken over the former Sony microchip plant and is transforming it into a new data-mining headquarters — oddly positioned directly across the street from a 24-hour Walmart — where billions of electronic communications will be sifted in the agency’s mission to identify terrorist threats.

“No longer able to store all the intercepted phone calls and e-mail in its secret city, the agency has now built a new data warehouse in San Antonio, Texas,” writes author James Bamford in the Shadow Factory, his third book about the NSA. “Costing, with renovations, upwards of $130 million, the 470,000-square-foot facility will be almost the size of the Alamodome. Considering how much data can now be squeezed onto a small flash drive, the new NSA building may eventually be able to hold all the information in the world.”

Bamford’s book focuses on the NSA’s transformation since 9/11, with the impetus for the new facility being a direct ramification of those attacks. At the time, the NSA had only about 7 percent of its facilities outside the Washington D.C./Baltimore area. But the realization that additional attacks could virtually wipe out the agency catalyzed a regional expansion. [See “Secret Agency Man,” November 5, 2008.]

The new facility is a potential boon to the local economy since it’s reportedly going to employ around 1,500 people, but questions remain about whether there will be adequate oversight to prevent civil-rights violations like Uncle Sam’s recent notorious warrantless wiretapping program. The NSA would suggest the facility’s ability to sort through surveillance data is one of America’s top defenses against terrorist threats, but the NSA’s presence comes with concerns that abuse of its secretive power could see the agency become akin to the “Thought Police” of 1984, George Orwell’s classic novel depicting the nightmare of a total surveillance society — and all for nothing. Even as the facility is completed, a new government-backed report has concluded that data surveillance is an ineffective method for identifying potential terrorists or preventing attacks. ...

via SA Current - NEWS+FEATURES: The panopticon economy.

Ah. So everything I ever type on this blog will be archived forever in some secret underground government computer... and based on what I have written, the computer can determine what I will and will not do.  It would be nice if they would provide some added service to ordinary citizens. ... like fortunes, or advice:  "Based on your profile, the NSA Superbrain recommends that you stop eating walnuts and buy a large screen TV in October."

NASA Wants Your Ideas for Digitizing Wernher von Braun Notes

von-braun-sketch1http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2009/06/von-braun-kennedy.jpgNASA is taking the rare step of reaching out to the public for help. The space agency is looking for the best way to analyze and electronically catalog a precious collection of notes that chronicle the early history of the human space flight program.

“We’re looking for creative ways to get it out to the public,” said project manager Jason Crusan. “We don’t always do the best with putting out large sets of data like this.”

The notes [pdf] are those of rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, the fist director of NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and are typed with copious hand written notes in the margin. According to the official request for information [pdf], NASA needs ideas on what format to use, how to index the notes and how to create a useful database.

The unique nature and historical value of the data, literally discovered in boxes six months ago, is what motivated NASA to ask the public for ideas.

“It’s first-hand insight on how management and engineering decisions were made on a real-time basis,” Crusan said. “It’s quite scrawled upon all over the place.”

Von Braun was born in Germany and led the German army’s “rocket team” which developed ballistic missiles. His V-2 missile was used on European targets during World War II. When it became clear to von Braun that Germany was going to lose the war, he surrendered himself, 500 of his best rocket scientists, plans and vehicles to the Allies. The team moved to the United States and worked on missile development for the U.S. Army.

In 1960, rocket development was shifted to NASA where von Braun headed Marshall Spaceflight Center and led the Saturn rocket project. In 1970 he moved to Washington D.C. to lead the strategic planning of the project and in 1972 he retired from NASA.

The details of von Braun’s role in the German army (he received an honorary SS rank from Heinrich Himmler) and his conversion to a NASA pioneer are still being assessed, and his notes are considered a historically valuable source of information about Marshall.

“He was significantly important in the formation of the Apollo program,” Crusan said.

via NASA Wants Your Ideas for Digitizing Rocket Scientist’s Notes | Wired Science | Wired.com.

I once told someone from NASA that I dreamed I met Wernher von Braun. The reply was pretty startling. He said, "If you did, you'd be dead."  I still have no idea what that means, but it could be a clue to something that no one yet knows.

Lunch with Buffett: 1.68 million dollars

Warren Buffet, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, looks towards photographers in Sun Valley, Idaho July 9, 2008.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking/FilesThe winner of this year's charity auction to dine with billionaire Warren Buffett gets a slight discount over last year, but will still plunk down more than $1.68 million for lunch.

Glide Foundation spokeswoman Denise Lamott says the group is thrilled by the auction's success, even if it is slightly off last year's record $2.1 million.

Buffett annually auctions off a lunch and donates the proceeds to Glide Foundation, which provides social services to San Francisco's homeless and poor.

Lamott said Friday that this year's winner will remain anonymous, at least for the time being.

Buffett, who is Berkshire Hathaway's chairman and chief executive, is known for both his investing success and philanthropy. He plans to gradually give most of his $36 billion fortune to five foundations.

via Deseret News | National news briefs.

I wonder what they ate. No,  Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, was not the inventor of Buffet lunches. He has just one too many t's in his name for that.
A buffet is a meal system where customers generally serve themselves. It is a popular method for feeding a large number of people with minimal staff. Buffets are offered at various places including hotels and many social events. Sideboards are also known as buffets as they may be used to offer the dishes of a buffet meal to guests. It is widely thought that in general the quality of foods at buffets is not on the level of an average "sit down" dinner. The reason being that because buffet food has to be produced in such large quantities, it is often cost and time prohibitive to focus on detail oriented aspects of food such as presentation and perfecting seasoning. However, this is not an across the board rule.

Ugliest Dog Contest

Miss Ellie competes in the World's Ugliest Dog Contest at the ...Miss Ellie celebrates her win in the World's Ugliest Dog Contest's ...

Miss Ellie competes in the World's Ugliest Dog Contest at the Sonoma-Marin Fair on Friday, June 26, 2009, in Petaluma, Calif. The blind 15-year-old Chinese Crested Hairless won the pedigree category.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

As the crowd chanted “Pabst, Pabst,” the celebrity judges deliberated between the so-named boxer-mix shelter dog and Rascal, a former world champion Chinese Crested to determine who would be the 2009 World’s Ugliest Dog Champion tonight at the Sonoma-Marin Fair. First timer Miles Egstad from Citrus Heights, California was stunned at Pabst’s win. “ I don’t think he’s that ugly!” he said of his boxer mix whose under bite was his most compelling physical feature. His sweet personality made him an audience favorite.

The Chinese Crested breed has dominated the contest for more than seven years and in this year’s contest represented more than 50% of the 2009 entries in the pedigree class. But Pabst, who was given his name because he had a “ bitter beer face”, according to his owner quickly won the crowd and the judges soon followed. Egstad, 25, first saw the contest on television and his friends urged him to enter his dog.

Egstad won $1,600 from the Sonoma-Marin Fair for sweeping all three rounds ($100 for mutt class, $500 for runoff with the pedigree class winner, and $1,000 for World’s Ugliest Dog). This year sponsor House Of Dog upped the ante with another $1,000 in prize money, a table of “bling” that included collars, leashes, and bowls plus a year-round modeling contract that Pabst signed with his paw. Event Photographer Grace Chon included a professional photo shoot.

Pabst [right] was a rescue dog adopted by Egstad three years ago. It was the first time a “mutt” has won the contest in more than seven years. Halligan who is a vet, performed the screening for contestants to make sure all the animals were healthy. Contestants this year had to provide veterinarian releases documenting the health of their dogs. As Judge and Fair Board Member Brian Sobel says, “We were looking for dogs who were naturally ugly.” And Pabst was.

via - sonoma-marinfair

Jury: No free energy.

Steorn.jpgIn August 2006 the Irish company Steorn published an advertisement in the Economist announcing the development of “a technology that produces free, clean and constant energy”. Qualified experts were sought to form a “jury” to validate these claims.

Twenty-two independent scientists and engineers were selected by Steorn to form this jury. It has for the past two years examined evidence presented by the company. The unanimous verdict of the Jury is that Steorn's attempts to demonstrate the claim have not shown the production of energy. The jury is therefore ceasing work.

The jury consists of scientists and engineers in relevant fields from Europe and North America, from industry, universities and government laboratories. Information about individual members can be found at http://stjury.ning.com/

Chairman, Steorn Jury

This is from 2007:
They said it couldn't be done. And it probably can't. A year after an Irish company called Steorn promised a perpetual energy source that required only magnetism, not fuel, the device called Orbo was set up for a 10-day public demonstration. Yesterday, at the Kinetica Museum in London, was to be the scheduled unveiling and although the lead scientist was not named Dr. Octavius or Dr. von Doom, something about the "time variant magneto-mechanical interaction" at the center of this process seemed ominous. Nevertheless, the public was invited to watch. Using Internet Explorer, you could even check out four different cameras in the Orbo's chamber. As you may have guessed, the demonstration did not go according to plan.

No, Steorn did not create a wormhole to another part of the universe. There was no white hot spinny thing raging out of control, though there were problems with spinny things, and they did involve excessive heat. The "technical difficulties" message appeared thusly:

We are experiencing some technical difficulties with the demo unit in London. Our initial assessment indicates that this is probably due to the intense heat from the camera lighting. We have commenced a technical assessment and will provide an update later today. As a consequence, Kinetica will not be open to the public today (5th July). We apologise for this delay and appreciate your patience.

via Gizmodo - The Rise and Fall of the Steorn Orbo Free Energy Machine - orbo.

Risk of mad cow disease from farmed fish?

http://roddysrockinreviews.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/gollum.jpgThree U.S. scientists are concern about the potential of people contracting Creutzfeldt Jakob disease -- the human form of "mad cow disease" -- from eating farmed fish who are fed byproducts rendered from cows.

Mad cow disease, also called bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a fatal brain disease in cattle, which scientists believe can cause Creutzfeldt Jakob disease in humans who eat infected cow parts.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Dr. Robert P. Friedland, a neurologist at University of Louisville in Kentucky and colleagues suggest that farmed fish fed contaminated cow parts could transmit Creutzfeldt Jakob disease.

The scientists want government regulators to ban feeding cow meat or bone meal to fish until the safety of this common practice can be confirmed.

Eating fish at least two times a week is widely recommended because of the beneficial effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on the heart and brain, they note.

"We are concerned," Friedland and colleagues write, that eating farmed fish may provide a means of transmission of infectious proteins from cows to humans, causing variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease.

"We have not proven that it's possible for fish to transmit the disease to humans. Still, we believe that out of reasonable caution for public health, the practice of feeding rendered cows to fish should be prohibited," Friedland said in a prepared statement. "Fish do very well in the seas without eating cows," he added.

The risk of transmission of made cow disease to humans who eat farmed fish "would appear to be low," the scientists emphasize, because of perceived barriers between the species, but that's no guarantee that it can't happen.

"The fact that no cases of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease have been linked to eating farmed fish does not assure that feeding rendered cow parts to fish is safe," Friedland said.

"The incubation period of these diseases may last for decades, which makes the association between feeding practices and infection difficult," he points out.

"Enhanced safeguards need to be put in place to protect the public," Friedland concludes.

via NewsDaily: Risk of mad cow disease from farmed fish?.

Discoveryon: Rarest rock discovered from India

[Early_Earth.jpg]German geologists Thursday said they have discovered in India one of the world’s rarest rocks, dating back to the birth of the planet when the Earth was covered with a hot ocean of melted stone.

The fragment from the primeval crust is only the second ever discovered, said scientists at the University of Muenster.

The ancient magma formed more than 4 billion years ago as the planet slowly cooled in the Hadean period. The fragment, found in Orissa state, yields answers about what the Earth was like in those times.

The find was detailed in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.

The only other piece of early magma, which was located in Canada, has been dated at 4.3 billion years old.

Normally, old rock is sucked back into the ground by the churning of tectonic movement and melted again, but the finds show some pieces of the old crust still exist.

via Discoveryon: Rarest rock discovered from India.

New Free Xeno Song: "Home to You"

http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/holographic-environment-1a.jpgTo celebrate surpassing 1 million hits on this blog, here is the third free song, two weeks in the making. "Home to You" is a three minute space rock opera.

Influences: Klaatu, CAKE, the Beatles, ELO, David Bowie, Jason Mraz.

It was going to be a science fiction story, but Lulu wanted a love song, so I made it a mix of the two. Special thanks to my roommate, "Irina the Astronaut Rescue Robot"!

It will make much more sense when someone makes a video for it... Here is the daydream which spawned the song.

The idea is that in the future when you are going on a rescue mission to save the Earth from a solar flare, you can stay in constant contact with someone remotely. Technology will allow you to be in two places at once.  You can also feel people (the Internet has evolved to include the sense of touch). Major Tom is both dancing with his wife and flying his space ship at the same time. Kim is on Earth, but is also hearing what is going on on the space ship.  The green parts are a virtual connection.
Home to You, A Miniature Space Rock Opera

Stunningly attired for the apocolypse, Kim, the astronaut's wife smiles
As they slow dance in the underground gymnasium
He is virtually there, as he is flying towards the sun

Bang! There is a powerful explosion in the dark matter engines
And she looks deeply in his eyes, looking for a sign

And he says, "This is what I was meant for, you have always known that"
"This is what I came here to do.  Life is unpredictable
And love is indestructable
And if I can I will get home to you

Masterfully his fingers work the instruments
With seconds left to spare he does the job
As they ride the escalator to the balcony
The solar flare that would have fried the Earth goes into space

"Ground Control, it's Major Tom. I just saved the Earth
Along with everything I ever knew, I'm coming home

Some damage in the delicate navigation grid
Sends him on a spiral back in time
He lands on Earth and nearly hits a dinosaur
He is actually scared, for the first time in his life
But he says, "This is what I was meant for"
"I have always known that this is what I came here to do."
"Live is unpredictable, and love is indestructable"
"And if I can I will get home."

He activates the beacon in the rescue pod
Maps the planet then sets up a base
He drops a teriyaki pterodactyl wing
A year later when they find him he can not believe his eyes
"Hi. I grew a beard and kept a journal. Such amazing beasts and weird plants too."
Tears as his wife appears.
The kiss sends a shiver from his toes up to his neck and he says

I'm the one you fell for, you have always shown that
And while away my love just grew
Live is unpredictable and love is indestructible
It's so good to be home. It's so good to be home.

Xeno Song update: Empty Bucket

http://img.metro.co.uk/i/pix/2008/01/kenyafireR_450x308.jpgThe first song of my new blog album, Everything Works Out Fine titled "Empty Bucket" (free download) is now redone with some heavy rock drums, a few guitars thrown in, improved lyrics, etc. Still a work in progress. Some of the vocals are nice, but some are sketchy and need to be redone. Enjoy version/mix #5!

Note to self: Had a crash in Cubase 5 as I was attempting a final Audio Mixdown to MP3. Somewhere along the line deleting unused files and emptying the trash caused the loss of sound files actually needed in a different song. Always back up your work... even when you are using a computer not connected to the Internet, running the latest greatest fully licensed 64-bit software on powerful hardware and you don't expect a single crash. Using a recovery program, I was able to pull some of the deleted audio from the hard disk. Took hours to run.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Domestic robots with a taste for flesh

Futuristic-looking robots like Honda's sleek humanoid Asimo don't cut it for designer James Auger, at the Royal College of Art, London. Believing that they need to fit unobtrusively into the home, he has built robotic furniture. And, believing they need to be useful and entertaining, he has given the furniture an appetite for vermin, like mice and flies. ...

Auger worked with long time collaborator and fellow designer Jimmy Loizeau to build the five domestic robots. Each can sense its environment, has mechanical moving parts, and can perform basic services for its human hosts, such as telling the time or lighting a room....

But the robots also have a taste for flesh. They can gain energy by chomping on flies and mice, an idea inspired by researchers at Bristol Robotics Lab, UK, who built a fly-powered robot and have also suggested that marine robots could feed on plankton.

The pests are lured in and digested by an internal microbial fuel cell. This exploits the way microbes generate free electrons and hydrogen ions when oxidising chemicals for energy. Electronics can be powered by directing the electrons around an external circuit before reuniting them with the ions.

"As soon as there is a predatory robot in the room the scene becomes loaded with potential," Auger told New Scientist. "A fly buzzing around the window suddenly becomes an actor in a live game of life, as the viewer half wills it towards the robot and half hopes for it to escape."

Although, for now, the robots rely on mains power, Auger believes they could become truly self-sufficient. "If the system fails, the grid goes down and all humans die, these robots could go on living so long as the flies don't go with us."

via Gallery: Domestic robots with a taste for flesh - tech - 25 June 2009 - New Scientist.

Scientists create first electronic quantum processor

The two-qubit processor is the first solid-state quantum processor that resembles a conventional computer chip and is able to run simple algorithms. - Blake Johnson/Yale University

A team led by Yale University researchers has created the first rudimentary solid-state quantum processor, taking another step toward the ultimate dream of building a quantum computer.

They also used the two-qubit superconducting chip to successfully run elementary algorithms, such as a simple search, demonstrating quantum information processing with a solid-state device for the first time. Their findings will appear in Nature's advanced online publication June 28.

"Our processor can perform only a few very simple quantum tasks, which have been demonstrated before with single nuclei, atoms and photons," said Robert Schoelkopf, the William A. Norton Professor of Applied Physics & Physics at Yale. "But this is the first time they've been possible in an all-electronic device that looks and feels much more like a regular microprocessor."

Working with a group of theoretical physicists led by Steven Girvin, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics & Applied Physics, the team manufactured two artificial atoms, or qubits ("quantum bits"). While each qubit is actually made up of a billion aluminum atoms, it acts like a single atom that can occupy two different energy states. These states are akin to the "1" and "0" or "on" and "off" states of regular bits employed by conventional computers. Because of the counterintuitive laws of quantum mechanics, however, scientists can effectively place qubits in a "superposition" of multiple states at the same time, allowing for greater information storage and processing power.

For example, imagine having four phone numbers, including one for a friend, but not knowing which number belonged to that friend. You would typically have to try two to three numbers before you dialed the right one. A quantum processor, on the other hand, can find the right number in only one try.

"Instead of having to place a phone call to one number, then another number, you use quantum mechanics to speed up the process," Schoelkopf said. "It's like being able to place one phone call that simultaneously tests all four numbers, but only goes through to the right one."

These sorts of computations, though simple, have not been possible using solid-state qubits until now in part because scientists could not get the qubits to last long enough. While the first qubits of a decade ago were able to maintain specific quantum states for about a nanosecond, Schoelkopf and his team are now able to maintain theirs for a microsecond—a thousand times longer, which is enough to run the simple algorithms. To perform their operations, the qubits communicate with one another using a "quantum bus"—photons that transmit information through wires connecting the qubits—previously developed by the Yale group.

via Scientists create first electronic quantum processor.

Quantum technology could make today's computers obsolete within a decade.

Physicists watch as sand forms droplets

Granular flowFire a squirt-gun skywards and the liquid stream will start to break up into smaller droplets due to surface tension. Intriguingly, this same behaviour is also observed in flows of sand even though granular matter is thought to be collection of grains that exert no forces on each other. Now — with the help of their $80,000 video camera — physicists in the US have developed an explanation for this puzzling similarity.John Royer and colleagues at the University of Chicago attribute this behaviour to the roughness of individual grains of sand. They propose that coarse surfaces lead to a combination of van der Waals interactions and capillary forces, causing grains to become attracted. Although 100, 000 times weaker than surface tension in liquid, these interactions closely resemble droplet formation in water jets, say the researchers.Recent studies have revealed instabilities in the flow of granular materials but the minuteness of the forces involved have rendered the clusters too short-lived to observe. Royer and his team avoided this problem by combining high-speed photography with sensitive measuring of forces. By “dropping” the camera alongside a stream of sand, they were able to capture high-quality images at 1000 frames per second and record the sand dynamics as it fell a metre in less than a second. “We now have a magnetic release, though at first I literally held it up by and then let go,” John Royer told physicsworld.com.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Invisibility cloak could hide buildings from quakes

After effects of a major earthquake in Sichuan province, Central China. Could future buildings be protected using the physics of invisibility cloaks? (Image: Sipa Press / Rex Features)Borrowing from the physics of invisibility cloaks could make it possible to hide buildings from the devastating effects of earthquakes, say physicists in France and the UK.

The "earthquake cloak" idea comes from the team led by Stefan Enoch at the Fresnel Institute in Marseille, France. They were the first to show that the physics of invisibility cloaks could have other applications – designing a cloak that could render objects "invisible" to destructive storm waves or tsunamis. ...

The new theoretical cloak comprises a number of large, concentric rings made of plastic fixed to the Earth's surface. The stiffness and elasticity of the rings must be precisely controlled to ensure that any surface waves pass smoothly into the material, rather than reflecting or scattering at the material's surface.

When waves travel through the cloak they are compressed into tiny fluctuations in pressure and density that travel along the fastest path available. By tuning the cloak's properties, that path can be made to be an arc that directs surface waves away from an area inside the cloak. When the waves exit the cloak, they return to their previous, larger size.

Unlike some of the optical invisibility cloaks that have been studied in physics labs in recent years, the new cloak is "broadband", meaning that it can divert waves across a range of frequencies.

This is made possible by tuning different rings of the cloak to incoming waves of different frequencies. Waves pass largely unaffected through rings not tuned to their frequency.

"The outer rings remain nearly still, but the pair of rings tuned to the frequency of the wave move like crazy, bending up and down and twisting," says Guenneau. "For each small frequency range, there's one pair of rings that does most of the work." The team has simulated cloaks containing as many as 100 rings, says Guenneau, although fewer would be needed to protect against the most common kinds of earthquake surface waves.

via Invisibility cloak could hide buildings from quakes - tech - 26 June 2009 - New Scientist.

New fossil tells how piranhas got their teeth

New fossil tells how piranhas got their teethHow did piranhas -- the legendary freshwater fish with the razor bite -- get their telltale teeth? Researchers from Argentina, the United States and Venezuela have uncovered the jawbone of a striking transitional fossil that sheds light on this question. Named Megapiranha paranensis, this previously unknown fossil fish bridges the evolutionary gap between flesh-eating piranhas and their plant-eating cousins.

Present-day piranhas have a single row of triangular teeth, like the blade on a saw, explained the researchers. But their closest relatives — a group of fishes commonly known as pacus — have two rows of square teeth, presumably for crushing fruits and seeds. "In modern piranhas the teeth are arranged in a single file," said Wasila Dahdul, a visiting scientist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina. "But in the relatives of piranhas — which tend to be herbivorous fishes —the teeth are in two rows," said Dahdul.

Megapiranha shows an intermediate pattern: it's teeth are arranged in a zig-zag row. This suggests that the two rows in pacus were compressed to form a single row in piranhas. "It almost looks like the teeth are migrating from the second row into the first row," said John Lundberg, curator at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and a co-author of the study.

via New fossil tells how piranhas got their teeth.

Reverse-Engineering the Quantum Compass of Birds

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/files/imagecache/news/files/20080501_chemicalcompass.jpgScientists are coming ever closer to understanding the cellular navigation tools that guide birds in their unerring, globe-spanning migrations.

The latest piece of the puzzle is superoxide, an oxygen molecule that may combine with light-sensitive proteins to form an in-eye compass, allowing birds to see Earth’s magnetic field.

“It connects from the subatomic world to a whole bird flying,” said Michael Edidin, an editor of Biphysical Journal, which published the study last week. “That’s exciting!”

The superoxide theory is proposed by Biophysicist Klaus Schulten of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, lead author of the study and a pioneer in avian magnetoreception. Schulten first hypothesized in 1978 that some sort of biochemical reaction took place in birds’ eyes, most likely producing electrons whose spin was affected by subtle magnetic gradients.

In 2000, Schulten refined this model, suggesting that the compass contained a photoreceptor protein called cryptochrome, which reacted with an as-yet-unidentified molecule to produce pairs of electrons that existed in a state of quantum entanglement — spatially separated, but each still able to affect the other.

According to this model, when a photon hits the compass, entangled electrons are scattered to different parts of the molecule. Variations in Earth’s magnetic field cause them to spin in different ways, each of which leaves the compass in a slightly different chemical state. The state alters the flow of cellular signals through a bird’s visual pathways, ultimately resulting in a perception of magnetism.

Far-fetched as it sounds, subsequent research from multiple groups has found cellular evidence of such a system. Molecular experiments suggest that it’s indeed sensitive to Earth’s geomagnetics, and computational models suggest a level of quantum entanglement only dreamed of by physicists, who hope to use entangled electrons to store information in quantum computers.

But though cryptochrome is likely part of the compass, the other part is still unknown. In April, another group of magnetoreception researchers showed that oxygen could interact with cryptochrome to produce the necessary electron entanglements. Schulten’s latest proposed role for superoxide, an oxygen anion found in bird eyes, fits with their findings.

Edidin cautioned that “this is still not an experimental demonstration. It’s a possibility.”

As for the perceptual result of the compass, it remains a mystery. Some researchers think birds might see a dot at the edge of their vision, swiveling according to the direction they’re facing. Others think it might produce effects of color or hue. Perhaps migrating birds fly towards the light.

via Reverse-Engineering the Quantum Compass of Birds | Wired Science | Wired.com.

Round-the-world solar plane debut

Solar Impulse planeSwiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard has unveiled a prototype of the solar-powered plane he hopes eventually to fly around the world.

The vehicle, spanning 61m but weighing just 1,500kg, will undergo trials to prove it can fly through the night.

Dr Piccard, who made history in 1999 by circling the globe non-stop in a balloon, says he wants to demonstrate the potential of renewable energies.

The final version of the plane will try first to cross the Atlantic in 2012.

It will be a risky endeavour. Only now is solar and battery technology becoming mature enough to sustain flight through the night - and then only in unmanned planes.

But Dr Piccard's Solar Impulse team has invested tremendous energy - and no little money - in trying to find what they believe is a breakthrough design.

"I love this type of vision where you set the goal and then you try to find a way to reach it, because this is challenging," he told BBC News.

The HB-SIA has the look of a glider but is on the scale - in terms of its width - of a modern airliner.

The aeroplane incorporates composite materials to keep it extremely light and uses super-efficient solar cells, batteries, motors and propellers to get it through the dark hours.

It is probable that Dr Piccard will follow a route similar to the one he took in the record-breaking Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon - travelling at a low latitude in the Northern Hemisphere. The flight could go from the United Arab Emirates, to China, to Hawaii, across the southern US, southern Europe, and back to the UAE.

Measuring success

Solar Impulse planeAlthough the vehicle is expected to be capable of flying non-stop around the globe, Dr Piccard will in fact make five long hops, sharing flying duties with project partner Andre Borschberg.

"The aeroplane could do it theoretically non-stop - but not the pilot," said Dr Piccard.

"We should fly at roughly 25 knots and that would make it between 20 and 25 days to go around the world, which is too much for a pilot who has to steer the plane.

"In a balloon you can sleep, because it stays in the air even if you sleep. We believe the maximum for one pilot is five days."

The public unveiling on Friday of the HB-SIA took place at Dubendorf airfield near Z├╝rich.

"The real success for Solar Impulse would be to have enough millions of people following the project, being enthusiastic about it, and saying 'if they managed to do it around the world with renewable energies and energy savings, then we should be able to do it in our daily life'."

via BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Round-the-world solar plane debut.

Rising CO2 Levels Lead To Bigger Fish Ears

For years scientists have observed the deleterious effects of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the oceans on shellfish and corals. Now, a new study by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has provided evidence that the physiological development of fish ears is also impacted by the gas.

In the June 26 edition of the journal Science, researchers from the San Diego-based institute published a short paper outlining the results of experiments in which young white seabass were continuously exposed to high levels of CO2. The most dramatic change observed was the aberrant enlargement of the fish’s ear bone, or otolith, which plays a critical role in helping the animals to sense their surroundings and swim upright.

The results were particularly surprising to the researchers, whose initial hypothesis had predicted the shrinking of the otolith in response to elevated carbon dioxide levels. In general, there was no increase in the overall size of the fish, only in the relative size of their otolith.

“At this point one doesn't know what the effects are in terms of anything damaging to the behavior or the survival of the fish with larger otoliths,” explained lead author of the study, David Checkley.

“The assumption is that anything that departs significantly from normality is an abnormality and abnormalities at least have the potential for having deleterious effects.”

As carbon dioxide levels around the planet are on the rise, ostensibly due to human activities, one of the many effects has been an increased acidification of the world’s oceans.

Environmentalists and oceanographers alike have watched with horror as falling pH levels in the oceans have brought on the massive erosion of coral reefs and a dramatic shrinking of plankton populations.

via Rising CO2 Levels Lead To Bigger Fish Ears - Science News - redOrbit.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dolphins get a lift from delta wing technology

http://naturescrusaders.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/striped-dolphin6.jpgWe can only marvel at the way that dolphins, whales and porpoises scythe through water. Their finlike flippers seem perfectly adapted for maximum aquatic agility. However, no one had ever analysed how the animals' flippers interact with water; the hydrodynamic lift that they generate, the drag that they experience or their hydrodynamic efficiency. Laurens Howle and Paul Weber from Duke University teamed up with Mark Murray from the United States Naval Academy and Frank Fish from West Chester University, to find out more about the hydrodynamics of whale and dolphin flippers. They publish their finding that some dolphins' fins generate lift in the same way as delta wing aircraft on 26 June 2009 in The Journal of Experimental Biology at http://jeb.biologists.org .

Using Computer tomography scanning of the fins of seven different species ranging from the slow swimming Amazon River dolphin and pygmy sperm whale to the super-fast striped dolphin, the team made scaled models of the flippers of each species. Then they measured the lift and drag experienced by the flipper at inclinations ranging from -45deg. to +45deg. in a flow tunnel running at a speed that would have been the equivalent of 2m/s for the full scale fin.

Comparing the lift and drag coefficients that the team calculated for each flipper at different inclination angles, they found that the flippers behave like modern engineered aerofoils. Defining the flippers' shapes as triangular, swept pointed or swept rounded, the team used computer simulations of the fluid flows around the flippers and found that sweptback flippers generate lift like modern delta wing aircraft. Calculating the flippers' efficiencies, the team found that the bottle nose dolphin's triangular flippers are the most efficient while the harbour porpoise and Atlantic white-sided dolphin's fins were the least efficient.

Commenting that environmental and performance factors probably play a significant role in the evolution of dolphin and whale flipper shapes and their hydrodynamics, Howle and his colleagues are keen to find out more about the link between the flippers' performances and the environment that whales and dolphins negotiate on a daily basis.

via Dolphins get a lift from delta wing technology.

Wow, check out the markings on those stripped dolphins! The patterns look purposefully designed to fool other fish into thinking they are farther away, faster, or smaller than they actually are. Amazing natural camouflage.

Sri Lanka astrologer is arrested

Chandrasiri BandaraThe authorities in Sri Lanka have arrested a popular astrologer who predicted that the president will be ejected from office, police say.

Chandrasiri Bandara announced last week that the government would flounder in September and October because of political and economic problems.

The opposition have condemned the arrest and warned that the country is heading towards a dictatorship.

Astrology is taken seriously by numerous Sri Lankan politicians.


Police told the AP news agency that Mr Bandara told an opposition meeting that the prime minister would take over as president on 9 September and the opposition leader would become prime minister.

He was arrested on Wednesday night to investigate the basis of his prediction, police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera said.

Mr Bandara made his forecast despite the president's high approval ratings following the defeat of Tamil Tigers rebels in May, bringing an end to nearly 26 years of civil war.

"The CID (Criminal Investigations Department) is questioning the astrologer," Mr Gunasekara said. ...

"The crime which Chandrasiri Bandara committed was publishing an astrological column which was adverse to the government," said opposition United National Party General Secretary Tissa Attanayake.

So convinced are Sri Lankan politicians over the accuracy of astrology that many have their own personal seers who decide the auspicious times to launch any new initiative.

President Rajapaksa has declared himself to be a believer, telling foreign reporters earlier this year that he has often consulted a favoured astrologer for advice on what time to make speeches or to depart for trips.

via BBC NEWS | South Asia | Sri Lanka astrologer is arrested.

Time warp back to the Dark Ages.  Intuitive advisors can be useful, but there is no magic involved, no insight to be had from the motion of the planets about human events. (Unless you count the motion of the Earth around the sun and the resulting seasons which do influence our behavior due to changes in the weather... ) Bandara and other astrologers should get credit for ideas and advice without attributing them to some Namby Pamby hocus pocus Mumbo Jumbo.

Military jets spotted searching for sphere UFO over Kansas City, Kansas

A report was made that military planes and helicopters moved quickly onto the scene after an unusually shaped sphere UFO flew into the Kansas City, Kansas, area and hovered, according to witness testimony from the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) database.

A woman in the Kansas City area was outside at 2 a.m. and looking toward the public forest area behind her home when she noticed a large white light moving toward her – and getting larger as it came closer.

When the object stopped, the woman used binoculars to get a closer look.

She described the object as “three large spheres connected together with a large arm or protrusion extending out at an angle underneath the craft. The arm was moving around in a circle.”

The object emitted a bright white light and stayed in that position until it just disappeared.

Shortly afterwards, military planes and helicopters moved into the area and seemed to be searching the same area for about an hour.

via Military jets spotted searching for sphere UFO over Kansas City, Kansas.

Oldest Elephant Relative Found

http://www.lexpress.fr/medias/317/elephant_330.jpgScientists have discovered fossilized remains of the oldest known elephant relative, dating back 60 million years.

The fossils were found in Morocco. Called Eritherium azzouzorum, the animal would not have looked much like an elephant. It was just 1.6 to 2 feet (50 to 60 cm) long and weighed 9 to 11 pounds (4 to 5 kg).

The animal's relation to elephants was determined via analysis of the specimen's teeth and skull. While it lacked a trunk, the animal had an enlarged first incisor, which researcher Emmanuel Gheerbrant of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France, says represents a primitive tusk. It was much smaller than the tusks of today's elephants.

"The trunk evolved with the modern elephant group, called elephantiform, at the beginning of the Oligocene," which extends from 33.7 million to 23.8 million years ago, Gheerbrant told LiveScience.

The fossil mammal was found in the same area that yielded the then-oldest elephant relative called Phosphatherium escuilliei, which dated back 55 million years.

The newly identified species extends the record of the Proboscidea order (whose sole survivors today are modern elephants) back to the Late Paleocene.

via Oldest Elephant Relative Found | LiveScience.

A tough way to wake up: Man stabbed while sleepwalking

http://brianpjackson.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/closet-photo.jpgWhat a wake-up call.

A 24-year-old Kansas City man suffered a stab wound to his face and shoulder Wednesday when his girlfriend allegedly tried to wake him from sleepwalking.

Police said the victim was intoxicated when he came home to his apartment. The girlfriend awoke about 1:30 a.m. and saw him urinating in the closet. She thought he was sleepwalking because he had done that in the past.

She tried to wake him up, but she said he pushed her out of his way. Scared he might hit her, she said, she grabbed a knife and held it up as he approached, cutting him. His injuries are believed to be non-life threatening.

via www.kansascity.com | 06/24/2009 | A tough way to wake up: Man stabbed while sleepwalking.

Dog in Calif. came _ somehow _ from Saudi Arabia

Microchip Mystery Lost DogA "sweetheart" of a dog now in a California shelter may be really, really far from home. His microchip says the knee-high, light tan Saluki came from Saudi Arabia.

The neutered male dog brought to a Carlsbad animal shelter last week has an implanted microchip that was sold to the U.S. Military Training Mission, headquartered in Riyadh, said Lt. Dan DeSousa of San Diego County's Animal Services Department.

The dog was found June 15 near Escondido, about 30 miles north of San Diego.

DeSousa said he believes someone in the military owns the dog and likely brought him from overseas. But they haven't been able to track down the owner, even after speaking with veterinarians who work with the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia.

"In our hearts and minds, we know this dog belongs to someone in the military. For all they've done for us, it is only fair we try to get the dog reunited," DeSousa said.

DeSousa said he doesn't know the dog's name but he wears a tag that reads "Pet Rejuvenizer." Plenty of people have said they would take him but authorities hope the real owner will come forward.

"There's a lot of unanswered questions, and dogs can't talk, so we're kind of restricted as to what information we can get out of him," DeSousa said, chuckling. "We're trying to put the word out. He is a sweetheart of a dog."

via Dog in Calif. came _ somehow _ from Saudi Arabia -- Page 1 -- Times Union - Albany NY:1163:.

I'm thinking one or more humans is involved somehow... ;-)

Salt Block Unexpectedly Stretches

To stretch a supply of salt generally means using it sparingly.

But researchers from Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Pittsburgh were startled when they found they had made the solid actually physically stretch.

"It's not supposed to do that," said Sandia principal investigator Jack Houston. "Unlike, say, gold, which is ductile and deforms under pressure, salt is brittle. Hit it with a hammer, it shatters like glass."

That a block of salt can stretch rather than remain inert might affect world desalination efforts, which involve choosing particular sizes of nanometer-diameter pores to strain salts from brackish water. Understanding unexpected salt deformations also may lead to better understanding of sea salt aerosols, implicated in problems as broad as cloud nucleation, smog formation, ozone destruction and asthma triggers, the researchers write in their paper published in the May Nanoletters.

The serendipitous discovery came about as researchers were examining the mechanical properties of salt in the absence of water. They found unexpectedly that the brittle substance appeared malleable enough to distort over surprisingly long distances by clinging to a special microscope’s nanometer-sized tip as it left the surface of the salt.

More intense examination showed that surface salt molecules formed a kind of bubble — a ductile meniscus — with the exploratory tip as it withdrew from penetrating the cube. In this, it resembled the behavior of the surface of water when an object is withdrawn from it. But unlike water, the salt meniscus didn't break from its own weight as the tip was withdrawn. Instead it followed the tip along, slip-sliding away (so to speak) as it thinned and elongated from 580 nanometers (nm) to 2,191 nm in shapes that resembled nanowires.

A possible explanation for salt molecules peeling off the salt block, said Houston, is that "surface molecules don't have buddies." That is, because there's no atomic lattice above them, they're more mobile than the internal body of salt molecules forming the salt block.

Salt showing signs of surface mobility at room temperatures was "totally surprising," said Houston, who had initially intended to study more conventionally interesting characteristics of the one-fourth-inch square, one-eighth-inch-long salt block.

- via sciencedaily

Stem cell surprise for tissue regeneration

This cross section of hind limb muscle tissue is from a mouse five days after injury. The uninjured cells are at top and stained red. The blue cells below are regenerating muscles cells. They were labeled with a blue stain and formed from muscle stem cells.

Scientists working at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Embryology, with colleagues, have overturned previous research that identified critical genes for making muscle stem cells. It turns out that the genes that make muscle stem cells in the embryo are surprisingly not needed in adult muscle stem cells to regenerate muscles after injury. The finding challenges the current course of research into muscular dystrophy, muscle injury, and regenerative medicine, which uses stem cells for healing tissues, and it favours using age-matched stem cells for therapy. The study is published in the June 25 advance on-line edition of Nature.
Previous studies have shown that two genes Pax3 and Pax7, are essential for making the embryonic and neonatal muscle stem cells in the mouse. Lead researcher Christoph Lepper, a predoctoral fellow in Carnegie's Chen-Ming Fan's lab and a Johns Hopkins student, for the first time looked at these two genes in promoting stem cells at varying stages of muscle growth in live mice after birth.

As Christoph explained: "The paired-box genes, Pax3 and Pax7 are involved in the development of the skeletal muscles. It is well established that both genes are needed to produce muscle stem cells in the embryo. A previous student, Alice Chen, studied how these genes are turned on in embryonic muscle stem cells (also published in Nature). I thought that if they are so important in the embryo, they must be important for adult muscle stem cells. Using genetic tricks, I was able to suppress both genes in the adult muscle stem cells. I was totally surprised to find that the muscle stem cells are normal without them."

The researchers then looked at whether the same was true upon injury, after which the repair process requires muscle stem cells to make new muscles. For this, they injured the leg muscles between the knee and ankle. They were again surprised that these muscle stem cells, without the two key embryonic muscle stem cell genes, could generate muscles as well as normal muscle stem cells. They even performed a second round of injury and found that the stem cells were still active.

The scientists then wondered when these genes become unnecessary for muscle stem cells to regenerate muscles. It turned out that these embryonic genes are important to muscle stem cell creation up to the first three weeks after birth. What makes the muscle stem cells different after three weeks? The scientist believe that these two embryonic muscle stem cell genes also tell the stem cells to become quiet as the organism matures. After that time is reached, they "hand over" their jobs to a different set of genes. The researchers suggest that since the adult muscle stem cells are only activated when injury occurs (by trauma or exercise), they use a new set of genes from those used during embryonic development, which proceeds without injury. The scientists are eager to find these adult muscle stem cell genes.

"We are just beginning to learn the basics of stem cell biology, and there are many surprises," remarked Allan Spradling, director of Carnegie's Department of Embryology. "This work illustrates the importance of carrying out basic research using animal models before rushing into the clinic with half-baked therapies."

Farrah Fawcett on the Dating Game

Thursday, June 25, 2009

US Supreme Court: Stop strip searching kids for asprin

http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2009-06/47555891.jpgSchool officials violated the rights of a 13-year-old girl by strip-searching her to look for prescription-strength ibuprofen, the U.S. Supreme Court said Thursday in an unexpected 8-1 ruling that bolsters students' privacy rights.

The ruling moves most of the nation a step closer to California, where a 1988 state law prohibits school employees from conducting strip searches. The court appeared to leave the door open for the searches in some circumstances - but not when school officials are looking only for painkillers and have no evidence that a student is hiding them under her clothing.

The ruling, written by Justice David Souter, said authorities in a Safford, Ariz., middle school had grounds to search eighth-grader Savana Redding's backpack for pills, based on a fellow student's allegation that the girl was supplying them, but not to have a nurse search under her bra and underpants.

"What was missing ... was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Redding was carrying pills in her underwear," Souter wrote in what may have been his last significant opinion. He is retiring after the 2008-09 term ends Monday.

Although school officials have more leeway than police to conduct searches, Souter said the Constitution's Fourth Amendment still requires educators to show a reasonable suspicion that a student is concealing contraband.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a vehement dissent, said courts should stop interfering with school officials and leave them free, under a centuries-old standard, to act with the same authority as a parent to search or discipline students.

Such a constitutional interpretation is needed "to keep the judiciary from essentially seizing control of public schools," Thomas said. He said parents who object to a school's treatment of their children can ask their school board or legislature to change the rules, "send their children to private schools or home-school them, or they can simply move."

Souter told a lawyer during the session that he would "rather have the kid embarrassed by a strip search ... than to have some other kids dead because the stuff is distributed at lunchtime." Others made similar comments, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court's only woman, told a USA Today reporter later that some of her male colleagues didn't seem to understand the situation from a 13-year-old girl's perspective.

"I wanted to make sure no other person would have to go through this," Redding, now 19, said Thursday in a statement released by her lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union. In an earlier court affidavit, she said the search was "the most humiliating experience I have ever had."

The case dates to October 2003, when the assistant principal at Safford Middle School pulled Redding out of class, brought her to his office and showed her four ibuprofen pills of 400 mg each, twice the dose of an over-the-counter Advil. School rules banned the pills on campus.

Redding denied she was distributing the pills and agreed to a search of her backpack, which found nothing. The administrator then sent her to the office of the school nurse, who told her to remove her clothes and pull out her bra and underpants for a further search, which again found no pills.

Her mother then sued the district and everyone involved in the search. Thursday's ruling upheld a decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that a strip search of a student for an everyday painkiller crosses constitutional boundaries.  - sfgate

Embarrassment can be deadly. Destroy someone's self esteem as a teenager and they can end up with a lifetime of depression, which, for some, ends in suicide.

World record: 17 yr old youngest person to conquer tallest summits on 7 continents.

JohnnyStrange.Everest2.May2009.PhotoBy.Scott WoolumsA seventeen year old from Malibu, California, has just become the youngest person to conquer the tallest summits on each of the seven continents.

On June 8th Johnny Strange, a 17-year-old high school senior, broke the world record for youngest person to climb the highest summit on every continent, the Seven Summit challenge, by scaling Mount Kosciuszko in Australia. The previous record was held by 18-year-old Samantha Larson of Long Beach, Calif. in 2007. Strange, scaled Mount Everest on May 20th. - now public

This is from June 9:
Three weeks ago, Malibu's Johnny Strange delivered a message from the top of Mt. Everest, stating, "Stop Genocide."

But he carries another message for fellow teenagers: Pursue your dreams and meet challenges head-on.

Strange, 17, after scaling the world's tallest peak at 29,035 feet, flew from the Himalayas to Australia and on Monday (Tuesday in Australia) strolled to the top of 7,310-foot Mt. Kosciuszko to become the youngest person in the world to have climbed the highest peak on seven continents, known collectively as the Seven Summits.

Strange beat a record held by Long Beach mountaineer Samantha Larson, who achieved the Seven Summits when she was 18.

Afterward Strange typed an e-mail to family and friends that read: "Never let anyone stifle your dreams no matter the feat, for if you have the heart and the courage, impossible is nothing."

It helps to have a wealthy attorney and fellow adventurer as a father, but this should steal nothing from Strange's accomplishment. He climbed Antarctica's Mt. Vinson when he was 12 to set this project in motion, and Everest is daunting for climbers of any age and experience level because of its perilously thin air and unpredictable nature (six climbers have died on Everest this season).

Strange reached the summit of Everest two days after Utah's Johnny Collinson stood on top of the world. Collinson also is 17 and he's trying to bag the Seven Summits within a calendar year.

Strange said he chose Kosciuszko instead of  Everest as his final Seven Summits peak because he wanted to tackle Everest "as a lone experience, not part of the Seven Summit goal." - LATimes

Michael Jackson dies at 50

I found out within 10 minutes after the LA Times reported it.  Amazing how fast information travels.  Farrah Fawcett Majors (62) and Michael Jackson (50) in one day! RIP. Wikipedia has a daily death list here. Perhaps we should do something about this whole death problem. Well, some people are working on it:

It is not known that human physical immortality is an unachievable condition. Biological forms have inherent limitations — for example, their fragility and slow adaptability to changing environments, which may or may not be able to be overcome through medical interventions or engineering. As of 2009, natural selection has developed biological immortality in at least one species, the jellyfish Turritopsis nutricula,[4] one consequence of which is a worldwide population explosion of the organism.[5]

Certain scientists, futurists, and philosophers, such as Ray Kurzweil, advocate that human immortality is achievable in the first few decades of the 21st century, while other advocates believe that life extension is a more achievable goal in the short term, with immortality awaiting further research breakthroughs farther into an indefinite future. Aubrey de Grey, a researcher who has developed a series of biomedical rejuvenation strategies to reverse human aging (called SENS), believes that his proposed plan for ending aging may be implementable in two or three decades.[6] - wikipedia

Great, because being dead sounds boring. Has a single ghost ever been scientifically proven to be the returning spirit of someone who has died? I think not. Here is some stuff about Jackson:
At 3:24 pm Pacific time today, the LA Times reported that Jackson was dead. The New York Times already has a minute-by-minute account of what happened, starting with a 12:21 pm PST call to the parademics.  - lat

On a magical night in 1983, Michael Jackson struck a pose on stage, clasping the black fedora on his head with his white sequined glove. His black jacket and silver vest glittered as white socks showed under his high-water black pants. Then he erupted into a flurry of fluid dance moves in a performance of Billie Jean that would catapult the former child singing sensation into full-blown superstardom.

Probably no celebrity has been as revered and reviled over the past 40 years as Jackson, 50, who died Thursday in Los Angeles. The troubled, reclusive star was rushed to UCLA Medical Center by paramedics responding to a call from his home at about 12:30 p.m.

Jackson had been scheduled next month to begin the first of 50 sold-out concerts at London's O2 Arena, a testament to his enduring popularity with fans around the world, a love affair that reached a peak on that March evening 26 years ago.

The occasion was the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever television special that celebrated a milestone for the legendary label, but it was also a seminal moment for the King of Pop. A then-record 47 million people watched in awe as Jackson unveiled the moonwalk with an electrifying performance. Other Motown greats performed that night and Jackson himself had reunited with brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy for a walk down memory lane with the Jackson 5.

But in that moment, Jackson stood alone in the spotlight, a singular figure riding a wave of popularity rarely seen anywhere. His groundbreaking Thriller— still the biggest selling album of all time — was dominating the charts and Jackson was in the process of reshaping the musical landscape with his videos and celebrity. There were still millions of records to be sold, acclaimed videos to be filmed and record-shattering concert tours to undertaken.

It was also before years of tabloid exposes, bizarre behavior, artistic flops, financial crises, health issues and child sex abuse scandals tarnished his image. His run of triumphs in the 1980s, in addition to Thriller, included the blockbuster albums Off the Wall and Bad.

Since he first arrived on the scene in 1969 as the cherubic 11-year-old phenom leading the teen heartthrob J5 singing I Want You Back, Jackson has been at the forefront of pop culture.

He transformed pop music, becoming the first African-American singer to gain mass crossover appeal. The premiere of videos for songs likeBeat It, Billie Jean, Thriller, Bad andSmooth Criminalwere major events and he helped popularize the then-fledgling MTV. It, in turn, brought him into millions of homes daily.

Thriller won a record eight Grammy Awards in 1984. Virtually every song became a hit single and it changed the industry's thinking about how albums were put together and marketed. It also opened the door for artists to have more creative freedom and higher royalty returns. At the same time, he inspired legions of imitators and a line of dolls and accessories.

He spent his life under the glare of paparazzi flashbulbs, but in recent years, he has more often been the subject of negative news about his eccentricities and personal life. Jackson's seemingly charmed life started to change when a pyrotechnics accident during the filming of a Pepsi ad set his hair afire and burned his scalp. He got outpouring of sympathy after that and won a $1.5 million settlement from Pepsi, which he donated to charity.

But his health also became a public fascination, especially as he began to change his appearance through plastic surgery. He had several nose jobs, his lips thinned, and chin clef put in, among other alterations. Meanwhile, Jackson's brown skin grew progressively lighter, rumored to be the result of skin bleaching, but later diagnosed as vitiligo. The skin disorder causes a loss of pigment.

Jackson himself fueled gossip column by leaking false stories that he slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, reportedly to slow the aging process, or next to the bones of Joseph Merrick, the 19th century Englishman known as "The Elephant Man" because of his congenital deformities.

He addressed many of these issues in his 1988 autobiography, Moonwalk, in which he also revealed that he had been physically abused as a child. That same year, he built his $17 million Neverland Ranch near Santa Ynez, Calif., replete with an amusement park and exotic animals.

And while none of his post-Thriller albums matched its success, 1987's Bad, 1991's Dangerous and 1995's HIStory were still commercial successes. Jackson reminded the world again of his power as a artist with an exhilarating halftime performance at 1993's Super Bowl XXVII before a U.S. TV audience of more than 135 million.

via - USAtoday


Homeless Guy Smashes Other Homeless Guy Upside Head With Skateboard During Quantum Physics Argument

computerscience.jpgBell's Theorem and the Death of Locality? Or the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Argument? We may never know what the beef was, but an argument between two homeless men about the splitting of atoms resulted in the splitting of lip:

A homeless man is on trial in San Mateo County on charges that he smacked a fellow transient in the face with a skateboard as the victim was engaged in a conversation about quantum physics, authorities said today.

Jason Everett Keller, 40, allegedly accosted another homeless man, Stephan Fava, on the 200 block of Grand Avenue in South San Francisco at about 1:45 p.m. March 30.

At the time, Fava was chatting with an acquaintance, who is also homeless, about "quantum physics and the splitting of atoms," according to prosecutors.

Keller joined in the conversation and, for reasons unknown, got upset, authorities said. He picked up his skateboard and hit Fava in the face with it, splitting his lip, prosecutors said.

Physics discussion ends in skateboard attack (SF Gate, image via Computer Science for Fun)

via Homeless Guy Smashes Other Homeless Guy Upside Head With Skateboard During Quantum Physics Argument - Boing Boing.

Drugs Won the War

US, allies seen as losing drug war(Duh)This year marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s start of the war on drugs, and it now appears that drugs have won.

“We’ve spent a trillion dollars prosecuting the war on drugs,” Norm Stamper, a former police chief of Seattle, told me. “What do we have to show for it? Drugs are more readily available, at lower prices and higher levels of potency. It’s a dismal failure.”

For that reason, he favors legalization of drugs, perhaps by the equivalent of state liquor stores or registered pharmacists. Other experts favor keeping drug production and sales illegal but decriminalizing possession, as some foreign countries have done.

Here in the United States, four decades of drug war have had three consequences:

First, we have vastly increased the proportion of our population in prisons. The United States now incarcerates people at a rate nearly five times the world average. In part, that’s because the number of people in prison for drug offenses rose roughly from 41,000 in 1980 to 500,000 today. Until the war on drugs, our incarceration rate was roughly the same as that of other countries.

Second, we have empowered criminals at home and terrorists abroad. One reason many prominent economists have favored easing drug laws is that interdiction raises prices, which increases profit margins for everyone, from the Latin drug cartels to the Taliban. Former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia this year jointly implored the United States to adopt a new approach to narcotics, based on the public health campaign against tobacco.

Third, we have squandered resources. Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, found that federal, state and local governments spend $44.1 billion annually enforcing drug prohibitions. We spend seven times as much on drug interdiction, policing and imprisonment as on treatment. (Of people with drug problems in state prisons, only 14 percent get treatment.)

I’ve seen lives destroyed by drugs, and many neighbors in my hometown of Yamhill, Oregon, have had their lives ripped apart by crystal meth. Yet I find people like Mr. Stamper persuasive when they argue that if our aim is to reduce the influence of harmful drugs, we can do better.

via Op-Ed Columnist - Drugs Won the War - NYTimes.com.

Seems we'd do better to strike at the root of the problem: people turning to addictions to cope with stress, depression, disconnection, etc.

Grey hair may be protecting us from cancer

http://www.bestweekever.tv/bwe/images/2009/02/Gandalf.jpgGREY hair may be unwelcome, but the processes that produce it are now better understood and could be protecting us from cancer.

Cells called melanocytes produce the pigments that colour hair and their numbers are kept topped up by stem cells. Hair goes grey when the number of stem cells in hair follicles declines. Now Emi Nishimura of Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Japan and colleagues have found what causes this decline in mice.

When the researchers exposed mice to radiation and chemicals that harm DNA, damaged stem cells transformed permanently into melanocytes. This ultimately led to fewer melanocytes, as it meant there were fewer stem cells capable of topping up the melanocyte pool. The mice also went grey (Cell, vol 137, p 1088). Nishimura's team proposes that the same process leads to the reduction in stem cells in the follicles of older people, especially as DNA damage accumulates as we age.

David Fisher, a cancer researcher at Harvard Medical School, suggests such processes may help protect us from cancer, by discouraging the proliferation of stem cells with damaged DNA, which could pass on mutations. "One likely beneficial effect is the removal of potentially dangerous cells that may contain pre-cancerous capabilities," he says.

via Grey hair may be protecting us from cancer - health - 21 June 2009 - New Scientist.