Sunday, May 31, 2009

Some bald ego, to boldly go.

XenoAtArcoI figure most of you 3,000 to 9,000 people per day visiting this blog to check out the strange news have never heard my band Xenophilia (some of our oldest songs on myspace.)

Although I've played a few other places solo since then, this photo was from my last gig with Xenophilia.

I figure once you play the Arco Arena, what's left? So I retired the band.

Truth be told, lately I'm not very excited about playing live. When fronting a band have to set up rehearsals, get everyone up to speed, deal with people's schedules, find paying gigs, find people to come to your shows, then slog your gear around, set up, break down, hope for a decent sound man at each place ... it's a hassle.

Amy is still playing live with a cover band called "Love Train".

I'm having so much fun playing around with original songs in the studio that I really don't miss the live shows. Musicians, relate?

New Free Xeno Song: "Works Out Fine"

Check the area on the left for my latest song, "Works Out Fine."

I'm trying to write more optimistic stuff.

I was thinking about the soldiers in the news who are killing themselves due to war stress. Brain experiments have recently shown that there is no free will...  so everything they did, they had to do.  This might be a source of comfort. Then again, the part they had to play included their exit. After something happens, you can say that it was all pre-written.

Note: Download if you like because I delete old versions and upload the latest mixes from time to time.

Comments & suggestions welcome!

Works Out Fine

c2009 by Xeno

Every day
a thousand things can make you say, "no way"
Don't deny
that sense is tough to make and so we fight

To make our picture of the universe
the only possibility
So everyone is wrong but me
And I should get some kind of award
or reward or something
you'll see

Right, I'm totally right inside this song
I wrote it that way, wrote you wrong
Wrote me right
inside a scene where you get everything
that you ever wanted

Everything works out fine
In this world of mine
I came up with a good design
love how it works out

Its okay, everything's supposed to be this way
All you've done, everything you did, you had to
Gone now all gone
Every problem that perplexed you once
is melted by the sun

Friday, May 29, 2009

Doll wars


A battle is brewing between the makers of rival high-end custom sex dolls.

Matt McMullen, owner of Abyss Creations, which produces Real Dolls, says a former co-worker ripped off his idea, duplicating the business he worked so hard to start.

"Real Doll is a very realistic, life-size, anatomically correct silicon person," McMullen says.

The dolls don't come cheap, though. It costs about $6,500 to own one of McMullen's "Real Dolls." McMullen created the vixens nearly 12 years ago and now produces them in his San Marcos, Calif., workshop.

"There was no doll like this in the world when I came out with it," he claims.

But McMullen is facing major competition from his former friend and colleague Matt Krivicke. Krivicke ran McMullen's company for about two years, and last September he launched Lovable Dolls out of his garage.

"They're used for anything you can imagine ... and beyond," Krivicke says. "Somehow the Lovable Doll looks sharper ... more in focus."

Now the two are facing off in court. Krivicke says McMullen owes him "$30,000 to $100,000" from the time that he worked for McMullen. McMullen has filed a countersuit claiming Krivicke ripped off his ideas.

"It's the worst betrayal of my life," McMullen states. "With forethought and with planning, he used my company's resources and knowledge and customer base to form his own company while he was

still working here."

But Krivicke counters, "All of the internal stuff from my doll is completely different what the Abyss dolls are." The trial is set for September in a North County, Calif., court. In the meantime, both men will continue creating their dolls.

via - myfoxla

$6,500? All three of these dolls seem pretty real to me, once you get them running and put them on FOX ... although you could tell the one on the left in the red dress has a bad motivator.

9/11 Blueprint for Truth presented by Architect Richard Gage, AIA


Long video. Any new evidence, or is this just more of the same debate? Pictures of angled cuts on columns of demolished buildings, description of how the core columns may have been accessed...

Stem cell breakthrough gets closer to the clinic

Embryonic stem cells are pictured through a microscope viewfinder ...The technology for versatile, grow-in-a-dish transplant tissue took a step toward clinical use Thursday when researchers announced they have found a safe way to turn skin cells into stem cells.

Researchers say the method is so promising they hope to apply for approval to begin clinic trials by the middle of next year.

"This is the first safe method of generating patient specific stem cells," said study author Robert Lanza, the chief scientific officer at Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine International.

"This technology will soon allow us to expand the range of possible stem cell therapies for the entire human body," Lanza told AFP.

"This allows us to generate the raw material to solve the problem of rejection (by the immune system) so this is really going to accelerate the field of regenerative medicine."

The research builds on an award-winning breakthrough in 2007 by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University.

Yamanaka and his team introduced four genes into skin cells, reprogramming them so that they became indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells.

That achievement conjured the distant vision of an almost limitless source of transplant material that would be free of controversy, as it would entail no cells derived from embryos.

But the downside of the technique for creating these so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) is that the genes are delivered by a "Trojan horse" virus.

Reprogramming cells using a virus modifies their DNA in such a way that they cannot be given to patients without boosting the risk of cancer and genetic mutation.

Other researchers have succeeded in delivering the genes with a method called DNA transfection or using a chemical wash, but these techniques also posed health risks.

via Stem cell breakthrough gets closer to the clinic - Yahoo! News.

Activity at NKorean missile site: North Korea could nuke Hawaii

US satellite photos have revealed vehicle activity at a site in North Korea suggesting the regime may be preparing to launch a long-range ballistic missile, two US defense officials said on Friday.

The vehicle movements resembled work done before North Korea fired a long-range rocket last month, the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
The officials offered no other details but said the United States was closely monitoring North Korea's missile sites and other sensitive facilities amid rising tensions on the peninsula.

Photos show activity at NKorean missile site: USThe officials also said there was no steam or other tell-tale sign coming from the Yongbyon plutonium reprocessing plant but it remained unclear if the regime had restarted work at the plant.

Tensions have been running high since Kim Jong-Il's regime tested an atomic bomb for the second time and renounced the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.

North Korea on Friday fired a short-range missile, its sixth since Monday, and threatened to take new measures to defend itself if world powers impose sanctions over its nuclear test.

In April, the launch of the long-range rocket was portrayed by Pyongyang as a peaceful move to test a communications satellite. But the United States and its allies said the launch was meant to be a test of a long-range missile.

Japan said the rocket flew over its territory while the boosters landed safely in the waters off its coasts, and that it had not moved to intercept the rocket -- something North Korea had warned would be seen as an act of war.

Pyongyang's Taepodong-2 missile could theoretically reach the US states of Alaska or Hawaii at maximum range, though experts say North Korea has likely not managed to configure a warhead for it yet.

via Photos show activity at NKorean missile site: US - Yahoo! News.

Warship fires on village by mistake

Vyborg, St. Petersburg, RussiaThe Russian navy said on Friday that one of its anti-submarine ships had fired artillery at a village by mistake, state RIA news agency reported.

The navy said no-one had been injured when a small anti-submarine ship on Thursday opened fire on a village in the Vyborg region of St Petersburg.

"On the 28 May, a small anti-submarine ship from the Baltic fleet was working on a host of exercises in the gulf of Finland including artillery fire at aerial targets," RIA quoted a navy spokesman as saying. "No-one was injured."

via Warship fires on village by mistake - Yahoo! News.

Toothy sharks once ruled Tuscany

Image: Toothy sharkSome three million years ago, eel-like sharks snaked through the region that now supports Tuscany's finest vineyards, suggest fossils recently found in the clay soil of the Chianti region.

Hundreds of fossilized teeth belonging to primitive shark-like creatures have been uncovered by amateur paleontologists near the village of Castelnuovo Berardenga, not far from Siena.

"It all started in 2001. We were poking around the Crete Senesi (in the Tuscany region), in a landscape made of green vine waves and ridges of clay, when we saw a tooth cropping out of the soil," Simone Casati, president of the Mineralogy and Paleontology Group of Scandicci, told Discovery News.

Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here

"Since then, we have found an exceptional number of fossilized fish teeth from the Pliocene epoch. Indeed, about three million years ago, before the sea started to retreat to its current location some 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, the site was a sort of underwater canyon populated by hundreds of deep-water creatures," Casati said.

Studied by Franco Cigala Fulgosi, from the Department of Earth Sciences of Parma University, the teeth turned out to belong to Chlamydoselachus lawleyi, a species which strongly resembles the living frilled shark Chlamydoselachus anguineus.

With a snake-like body, flat head and large toothy mouth, the shark has changed little since prehistoric times. Like primitive sharks, it has six gills, whereas most modern sharks have five.

Living at depths of about 2,000 feet, these five-foot sharks seem to prefer the cold waters of deep and upwelling regions. Making great vertical migrations at night, they have been often captured in Japan's Suruga Bay.

"The teeth unearthed in Tuscany belong to a species which differs from the living frilled shark only by its larger size," Cigala Fulgosi, an authority on fossil sharks, told Discovery News. "The teeth suggest an animal approximately 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in length."

via Toothy sharks once ruled Tuscany -

Wasn't there something like this in The Princess Bride?

Russian power station worker Dmitry K 'murdered six people with home-made electric chair'

Deadly: Dmitry K is accused of rigging up an electric chair in his garage (file picture)A Russian man killed at least six people with a home-made electric chair, police have revealed.

The power station worker, identified only as Dmitry K, is also accused of designing an electric carpet which would kill anyone who stepped on it.

The 30-year-old lured his victims by posting an advert on an internet website claiming he wanted to buy computer parts, detectives said.

Once at his house, he asked them to sit in an improvised electric chair before tying them up and hitting a button on his computer to activate the current.

After the victim was dead, he took the body to a forest and burned it.

Police only tracked the killer down to his house in in the city of Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, after finding the remains of a 23-year-old student.

The man had been so badly burnt that officers were only able to identify him from dental records.

They also found fingerprint evidence which linked the victim to Dmitry K.

He has admitted the murder - but detectives suspect him of killing at least five other people.

Investigator Vladimir Davydov said: 'We are fairly sure that there were many more victims.

'He attacked this victim in his garage, tied him into his death chair and sent a huge electric charge through his body.'

Dmitry K told investigators he would admit other murders if they could find the bodies.

He also claimed he had designed a device which would remotely stop cars passing by his house - and then electrocute drivers when they stepped on his door mat.

He had been planing a machine to erase people’s memory with an electro-magnetic ray, he added.

via Russian power station worker Dmitry K 'murdered six people with home-made electric chair' | Mail Online.

Sounds like a bad horror movie plot. If your car stops for no reason when passing by a house in Russia, you know what to do now, right?

Mice Given 'Human' Version of Speech Gene

They may not be the talking mice of cartoons, but real mice carry a "humanized version" of a gene thought to be involved in speech, a new study suggests.

The finding could help shed light on how humans evolved language and speech. Mice are often used to study the causes and effects of human diseases because they share many genetic similarities with us.

"In the last decade or so, we've come to realized that the mouse is really similar to humans," said co-author of the new study, Wolfgang Enard of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthrophology. "The genes are essentially the same and they also work similarly."

Enard and his colleagues used this genetic similarity to gain insights the evolution of human speech.

"With this study, we get the first glimpse that mice can be used to study not only disease, but also our own history," Enard said.

... The researchers introduced the human substitutions into the FOXP2 gene of mice, which is essentially identical to that of chimps. The mice with the human FOXP2 gene didn't start babbling like babies of course, but they showed changes in brain circuits that have previously been linked to human speech. The genetically altered mouse pups also showed differences in ultrasonic vocalizations they use when placed outside the comfort of their mothers' nests. But not enough is known about mouse communication to read too much into what those changes mean, Enard noted.

via Mice Given 'Human' Version of Speech Gene | LiveScience.

Male Or Female? Coloring Provides Gender Cues brain is wired to identify gender based on facial cues and coloring, according to a new study published in the Journal of Vision. Psychology Professor Frédéric Gosselin and his Université de Montréal team found the luminescence of the eyebrow and mouth region is vital in rapid gender discrimination.

"As teenagers, dimorphism (systematic difference between sexes) increases in the nose, chin, mouth, jaw, eyes and general shape of faces," says Nicolas Dupuis-Roy, lead author of the study. "Yet we aren't conscious of how our brain recognizes those differences."

To discover those reference points, Dupuis-Roy and colleagues showed photos of 300 Caucasian faces to some 30 participants. Subjects were asked to identify gender based on images where parts of faces were concealed using a technology called Bubbles.

The investigation found that eyes and mouths, specifically their subtle shading or luminance, are paramount in identifying gender. Unlike previous studies, which found the gap between the eyelid and eyebrow as essential in gender ID, this investigation found the shades of reds and greens around mouths and eyes led to faster gender discrimination.

"Studies have shown that an androgynous face is considered male if the skin complexion is redder, and considered female if the complexion is greener," says Dupuis-Roy. "However, it is the opposite for the mouth. A woman's mouth is usually redder. Our brain interprets this characteristic as female."

via Male Or Female? Coloring Provides Gender Cues.

To Mow, or Not to Mow? Man arrested for mowing grass

An Ohio man arrested for mowing unkempt grass at a public park said he just wanted to make his city look nice. John Hamilton said he took control of the situation because the grass in Sandusky's Central Park was about a foot high. According to a police report, a witness said Hamilton was blowing grass onto the sidewalk and shredding trash in the park that had not been picked up.

Police said they arrested 48-year-old Hamilton after he refused to stop mowing and charged him with obstructing official business and disorderly conduct.

City Manager Matt Kline called the arrest unfortunate and said he understands Hamilton's frustration. Kline said budget cuts have left Sandusky understaffed for seasonal maintenance work.

-via YahooNews, also see Foxtoledo for more.

What is it with Ohio and mowing?
Canton, Ohio passed a law  [June 2008] in which residents who are ticketed a second time for having lawn that is too high can be fined up to $250 dollars and be sentenced to a maximum of 30 days in jail. - jm2c

Mowing is a dangerous business. About 77,000 people are rushed to the emergency room each year due to mowing. In 2007 there was the drunken mower chased by a police car. In June 2008 an Elkhart man was arrested for mowing nude. Aug 2008 a Brooksville man wash shot while mowing.

Not mowing is also dangerous. Anita Felix is wanted by the law for not mowing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Natural gas in the Arctic is mostly Russian one-third of the natural gas yet to be discovered in the world is north of the Arctic Circle and most of it is in Russian territory, according to a new analysis led by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey.

"These findings suggest that in the future the ... pre-eminence of Russian strategic control of gas resources in particular is likely to be accentuated and extended," said Donald L. Gautier, lead author of the study published in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

Russia is already the world's leading natural gas producer, noted Gautier, of the Geological Survey's office in Menlo Park, Calif.

The report, by an international scientific team, estimated that the Arctic also contains between 3 and 4 percent of the world's oil resources remaining to be discovered.

Two-thirds of the undiscovered gas is in just four areas — South Kara Sea, North Barents Basin, South Barents Basin and the Alaska Platform — the report said.

Indeed, the South Kara Sea off Siberia contains 39 percent of the Arctic's undiscovered gas, the researchers said.

Russia has been active in asserting its claim to parts of the Arctic. It first submitted a claim to the United Nations in 2001, but was rejected for lack of evidence. The United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have also sought to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic.

Now, Russia is working to prove that an underwater mountain range crossing the polar region is part of its continental shelf. In 2007 two Russian civilian mini-submarines descended to the seabed to collect geological and water samples and drop a titanium canister containing the Russian flag.

Arctic oil reserves are much smaller than those of natural gas and are unlikely to lead to any shift in world oil balance, Gautier said in a recorded briefing provided by Science.

But they could be of importance locally if developed by individual countries, he said, citing in particular the United States and Greenland, which is governed by Denmark.

via Natural gas in the Arctic is mostly Russian - Yahoo! News.

Is Aging an Accident of Evolution?

Main_2"Everyone has assumed we age by rust. But how do you explain animals that don't age? Some tortoises lay eggs at the age of 100, there are whales that live to be 200 and clams that make it past 400 years."

Stuart Kim, PhD, Stanford University professor of developmental biology and genetics

Prevailing theory of aging challenged by Stanford University Medical School researchers. Their discovery contradicts the prevailing theory that aging is a buildup of tissue damage similar to rust. The Stanford findings suggest specific genetic instructions drive the process. If they are right, science might one day find ways of switching the signals off and halting or even reversing aging.

“We were really surprised,” said Stuart Kim, who is the senior author of the research.

Kim’s lab examined the regulation of aging in C. elegans, a millimeter-long nematode worm whose simple body and small number of genes make it a useful tool for biologists. The worms age rapidly: their maximum life span is about two weeks.

Comparing young worms to old worms, Kim’s team discovered age-related shifts in levels of three transcription factors, the molecular switches that turn genes on and off. These shifts trigger genetic pathways that transform young worms into social security candidates.

The question of what causes aging has spawned competing schools, with one side claiming that inborn genetic programs make organisms grow old. This theory has had trouble gaining traction because it implies that aging evolved, that natural selection pushed older organisms down a path of deterioration. However, natural selection works by favoring genes that help organisms produce lots of offspring. After reproduction ends, genes are beyond natural selection’s reach, so scientists argued that aging couldn’t be genetically programmed.

The alternate, competing theory holds that aging is an inevitable consequence of accumulated wear and tear: toxins, free-radical molecules, DNA-damaging radiation, disease and stress ravage the body to the point it can’t rebound. So far, this theory has dominated aging research.

But the Stanford team’s findings told a different story. “Our data just didn’t fit the current model of damage accumulation, and so we had to consider the alternative model of developmental drift,” Kim said.

The scientists used microarrays—silicon chips that detect changes in gene expression—to hunt for genes that were turned on differently in young and old worms. They found hundreds of age-regulated genes switched on and off by a single transcription factor called elt-3, which becomes more abundant with age. Two other transcription factors that regulate elt-3 also changed with age.

To see whether these signal molecules were part of a wear-and-tear aging mechanism, the researchers exposed worms to stresses thought to cause aging, such as heat (a known stressor for nematode worms), free-radical oxidation, radiation and disease. But none of the stressors affected the genes that make the worms get old.

So it looked as though worm aging wasn’t a storm of chemical damage. Instead, Kim said, key regulatory pathways optimized for youth have drifted off track in older animals. Natural selection can’t fix problems that arise late in the animals’ life spans, so the genetic pathways for aging become entrenched by mistake. Kim’s team refers to this slide as “developmental drift.”

“We found a normal developmental program that works in young animals, but becomes unbalanced as the worm gets older,” he said. “It accounts for the lion’s share of molecular differences between young and old worms.”

Kim can’t say for sure whether the same process of drift happens in humans, but said scientists can begin searching for this new aging mechanism now that it has been discovered in a model organism. And he said developmental drift makes a lot of sense as a reason why creatures get old.

“Everyone has assumed we age by rust,” Kim said. “But then how do you explain animals that don’t age?”

Some tortoises lay eggs at the age of 100, he points out. There are whales that live to be 200, and clams that make it past 400. Those species use the same building blocks for their DNA, proteins and fats as humans, mice and nematode worms. The chemistry of the wear-and-tear process, including damage from oxygen free-radicals, should be the same in all cells, which makes it hard to explain why species have dramatically different life spans.

“A free radical doesn’t care if it’s in a human cell or a worm cell,” Kim said. ...

via Is Aging an Accident of Evolution? -A Galaxy Classic.

Cool. I'd like to live to be about 500 years old. Lots to do.

Scotland: Nessie pops up to say 'Allo

Loch Ness sonar imageThe cast of the UK stage adaptation of sitcom Allo 'Allo got slightly more than they bargained for while cruising Loch Ness - catching a glimpse of what could be the elusive Loch Ness Monster on the ship's sonar screen.

The sonar images reveal five Nessie-shaped images, which a trusted Loch Ness expert cannot explain.

The cast, including television series favourite Vicki Michelle, had been taking a break from performing at Eden Court Theatre last Thursday, when the spot was made.

The crew of the Jacobite Queen witnessed highly unusual readings on the ship's sonar screen, somewhere between Dores and Urquhart Castle.

According to captain John Askew, it was the first-time in his 15-years working on the loch that he successfully picked up images of this kind on any of the Jacobite fleet's sonar screens. The images have now been sent for scientific analysis.

An expert in sonar who has been studying Loch Ness since 1973 couldn't explain the sighting.

"This has got me puzzled and has every appearance of a genuine sonar contact," said Adrian Shine, of The Loch Ness Project. "The fact there's five items on the screen can be explained, as a single object often appears again as an echo.

"This certainly adds to the Loch Ness mystery and will be the subject of further investigation."

Vicki Michelle, who was aboard the boat as it traveled from Inverness to the historic Urquhart Castle, commented: "I went down to the boat's cabin and caught an arch shape on the monitor, followed by four more. The whole cast had been hoping to see something on the trip and, if it was Nessie, that positive energy probably brought her out... or perhaps she's just a fan of the show!

"In all seriousness, whether it was Nessie or not, we all definitely saw something on that monitor," she added.

Recorded sightings of the Loch Ness Monster go back nearly 1,500 years, although many photographs of the legendary 'Nessie' taken in the past century have proved to be either hoaxes or simply optical illusions.

via Signs of the Times News for Thu, 28 May 2009.

Where, next to that flock of underwater birds?

The Ultimate Memory: New Computer System to Remain Viable for Billions of Years

1541581Modern memory is built entirely around the now, and that's not just a reflection on ADD-afflicted kids. The IT infrastructure of an entire planet is being built around the internet, the principle of instant and easy access - with the price that most modern memories degrade rather rapidly. Now some scientists are working on a system that can be read by computers but remain viable for billions of years.

The volatility of modern media leads many to make ridiculous false comparisons, pointing out how ancient records on vellum outlast modern disk drives. The fact that that was the only vellum to survive the destruction of an entire culture, or the way it was shielded by numbers, or how it was known to be important and protected from the start, seems to elude them. A more useful approach is to come up with a solution, and a team comprised of University of California, Berkeley and Penn State researchers have done just that.

Their gigayear storage solution is an iron nanoparticle sealed into a carbon nanotube. The particle can be shuttled back and forth along the tube by an electrical write signal, at its simplest providing a single bit but actually providing hundreds of possible storage positions. Even better, the value can be read by a blind resistance measurement - no fields, no interfering processes, no winding miles of incredibly vulnerable tape through winding motors (how did we ever do that?)

Lab testing suggests the system will retain its data for over a billion years. If that's even remotely true we'll have to restrict access to them as temporal weapons of mass destruction. Never mind human rebels or mechanical evil: any future race will be driven to inventing time travel and trying to wipe us out once they start digging up time capsules full of LOLCATS.

Gigayear storage

via The Ultimate Memory: New Computer System to Remain Viable for Billions of Years.

Google Holodeck Now Operational: Science Fiction in the News

The google holodeck is used by google engineers to test the usability of StreetView photos. It's also a pretty cool tool to use, if you happen to be at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco this year.

Google's version of a holodeck is a small room that is equipped with flat panel television displays turned 90 degrees. You stand in the middle and can see an almost completely circular view, based on the Google Street cam pictures available for that location.

via Google Holodeck Now Operational: Science Fiction in the News.

Don't get in a flap, it's just a cat with furry wings

The kitty seems quite content with his 'wings' - which also resemble giant ears

Someone should tell the birds to look out - now cats are growing wings.

At least, this cat in the Chinese city of Chongqing in China appears to be.

Animal experts have been left baffled by the fluffy white moggy, who was born normal - but began growing wing-shaped appendages on either side of his spine when he was just a year old.

Some experts believe the bony 'wings' are in fact a freak mutation - a Siamese twin growing inside the kitty.

Others think the mutation may be genetic, caused by chemicals during his mother's pregnancy.

Whatever the answer is, the cat does not seem to mind - with his owners even claiming he enjoys all the attention.

via Don't get in a flap, it's just a cat with furry wings | Mail Online.

Mysterious 'ice circles' in remote Siberian lake baffle scientists

mysterious ice circles ice circleThis strange almost perfect 'ice circle' has appeared on a frozen lake in Siberia.

While scientists have ruled out UFO involvement, they are puzzled as to how the mysterious, 2.5mile-wide geological phenomenon has formed in Lake Baikal.

It was spotted at the southern edge of the lake while another was seen near the centre. The images were taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station circling 220 miles above Earth.

They charted the progress of the circles when they first appeared on April 5 until April 27 when the ice was beginning to split apart.

'Throughout April the circles are persistent,' a Nasa spokesman said.

'They appear when ice cover forms, and then disappear as ice melts. The pattern and appearance suggest that the ice is quite thin.'

Ice cover changes rapidly at this time of year on the Russian lake and can melt and freeze overnight. Scientists believe a spurt of warm water rose to the surface creating the distinctive pattern but are puzzled by the source of heat.

via Mysterious 'ice circles' in remote Siberian lake baffle scientists | Mail Online.

Meteor? Volcano? Hidden UFO?

Scientists find bacterial zoo thrives in our skin's a zoo full of critters living on your skin — a bacterial zoo, that is. Consider your underarm a rain forest. Healthy skin is home to a much wider variety of bacteria than scientists ever knew, says the first big census of our co-inhabitants. And that's not a bad thing, said genetics specialist Julia Segre of the National Institutes of Health, who led the research.

Sure they make your sneakers stinky, "but they also keep your skin moist and make sure if you get a wound that (dangerous) bacteria don't enter your bloodstream," she said. "We take a lot for granted in terms of how much they contribute to our health."

People's bodies are ecosystems, believed home to trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that naturally coexist in the skin, the digestive tract and other spots. But scientists don't have a good grasp of which microbes live where, much less which are helpful, even indispensable, in maintaining health. The NIH's "Human Microbiome Project" aims to change that, recruiting healthy volunteers to learn what microbes they harbor so scientists can compare the healthy with diseases of microbes gone awry — from acute infections to mysterious conditions like psoriasis or irritable bowel syndrome.

The skin research, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, is part of that project. Scientists decoded the genes of 112,000 bacteria in samples taken from a mere 20 spots on the skin of 10 people. Those numbers translated into roughly 1,000 strains, or species, of bacteria, Segre said, hundreds more than ever have been found on skin largely because the project used newer genetic techniques to locate them.

Topography matters, a lot, the researchers reported. If a moist, hairy underarm is like a rain forest, the dry inside of the forearm is a desert. They harbor distinctly different bacteria suited to those distinctly different environments. In fact, the bacteria under two unrelated people's underarms are more similar than the bacteria that lives on one person's underarm and forearm.

Mom's advice to wash behind your ears notwithstanding, that spot contained the least diverse bacteria — 19 species on average. The most diverse spot: the forearm, which averaged 44 species.

How many are supposed to live there? That's not clear yet. Some certainly could be tourists, picked up as we go about our day. When researchers re-checked five of these volunteers a few months later, the bacteria in some spots — the moist nostril and groin, for example — proved pretty stable while other spots, including the forearm, had changed quite a bit.

via Scientists find bacterial zoo thrives in our skin - Yahoo! News.

Number of Homeowers Facing Foreclosure Rises homeowners than ever before are falling behind on their mortgage payments and sliding into foreclosure, according to figures released on Thursday, a sign that the country’s housing crisis is spreading through the ranks of previously stable borrowers.

About 5.4 million of the country’s 45 million home loans were delinquent or in some stage of the foreclosure process in the first three months of the year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. About 12.07 percent of all mortgages were delinquent or in foreclosure, up from 11.93 percent at the end of 2008.

Temporary halts on foreclosures imposed by lenders and mortgage underwriters have mostly ended, and banks are moving quickly against delinquent homeowners.

Housing specialists said the number of foreclosures would probably keep rising as more people lose their jobs or are forced to trade full-time work for part-time. Nearly six million jobs have been lost since the recession began a year and a half ago, and many economists expect the unemployment rate to rise to 10 percent from its current 8.9 percent.

More defaults by unemployed homeowners could shunt more houses onto an already saturated market, economists said, dragging prices down farther.

“We’re still caught in this vicious cycle,” said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight. “These numbers were horrible, and they’re going to get worse. This problem’s going to be with us for a while.”

The wave of employment-driven foreclosures could pose new challenges to the administration as it tries to stabilize falling housing values and keep up to nine million families in their homes.

via Number of Homeowers Facing Foreclosure Rises -

Fossil Ida: extraordinary find is 'missing link' human evolution

Ida the missing link primate fossil - whole skeletonScientists have discovered an exquisitely preserved ancient primate fossil that they believe forms a crucial "missing link" between our own evolutionary branch of life and the rest of the animal kingdom.

The 47m-year-old primate – named Ida – has been hailed as the fossil equivalent of a "Rosetta Stone" for understanding the critical early stages of primate evolution.

The top-level international research team, who have studied her in secret for the past two years, believe she is the most complete and best preserved primate fossil ever uncovered. The skeleton is 95% complete and thanks to the unique location where she died, it is possible to see individual hairs covering her body and even the make-up of her final meal – a last vegetarian snack.

"This little creature is going to show us our connection with the rest of all the mammals; with cows and sheep, and elephants and anteaters," said Sir David Attenborough who is narrating a BBC documentary on the find. "The more you look at Ida, the more you can see, as it were, the primate in embryo."

"This will be the one pictured in the textbooks for the next hundred years," said Dr Jørn Hurum, the palaeontologist from Oslo University's Natural History Museum who assembled the scientific team to study the fossil. "It tells a part of our evolution that's been hidden so far. It's been hidden because the only [other] specimens are so incomplete and so broken there's nothing almost to study." The fossil has been formally named Darwinius masillae in honour of Darwin's 200th birthday year.

It has been shipped across the Atlantic for an unveiling ceremony hosted by the mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg today. There is even talk of Ida being the first non-living thing to feature on the front cover of People magazine.

She will then be transported back to Oslo, via a brief stop at the Natural History Museum in London on Tuesday, 26 May, when Attenborough will host a press conference.

Ida was originally discovered by an amateur fossil hunter in the summer of 1983 at Messel pit, a world renowned fossil site near Darmstadt in Germany. He kept it under wraps for over 20 years before deciding to sell it via a German fossil dealer called Thomas Perner. It was Perner who approached Hurum two years ago.

via Fossil Ida: extraordinary find is 'missing link' human evolution | Science |

Religion can't explain this, yet there it is, physical proof of evolution. Science wins. Can we move on now?

Close-up Look at Black Hole Reveals Feeding Frenzy

Black holeAstronomers are getting a close-up look at a cosmic eating machine: a spinning black hole that devours the mass equivalent of two Earths per hour, verging on the limit of its feeding ability.

Supermassive black holes can weigh as much as a billion suns or more and are thought to reside at the centers of most, if not all, large galaxies. Their gravity is so powerful it traps even light, making black holes invisible. Their presence is inferred by watching the motions of stars and gas around them, along with the radiation that's generated in their frenzied vicinities.

The behemoth of interest in the new close-up study, which will be published in the May 28 issue of the journal Nature, lies at the center of a distant active galaxy known as 1H0707-495. Using data from the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton observatory, astronomers analyzed X-rays emitted during the black hole's feeding frenzy.

As matter swirls in toward a black hole, gravity makes it travel at significant fractions of light-speed. That generates X-rays and other radiation that can give astronomers information about the spin of the black hole and its size, among other details.

In this case, the astronomers say they are tracking matter that's within twice the radius of the black hole itself.

Specifically, the XMM-Newton detections suggested the galaxy's core is much richer in iron than the rest of the galaxy. In addition, there was a time lag of 30 seconds between changes in the X-ray light observed directly and those seen in its reflection from the disk. From this delay, the astronomers estimate the black hole weighs about 3 million to 5 million solar masses – modest by supermassive black hole standards.

The team will continue to track the galaxy and map out the accreting process of this supermassive black hole. Far from being a steady process, like muddy water slipping down a plughole, a feeding black hole is a messy eater.

"Accretion is a very messy process because of the magnetic fields that are involved," said study scientist Andrew Fabian of the University of Cambridge.

via Close-up Look at Black Hole Reveals Feeding Frenzy - Yahoo! News.

Pentagon denies report Iraq prison photos show rape

Photos show rape and sex abuse in Iraq jails-paper The Pentagon on Thursday denied a British newspaper report that photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse, whose release U.S. President Barack Obama wants to block, include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Daily Telegraph newspaper had shown "an inability to get the facts right".

"That news organization has completely mischaracterized the images," Whitman told reporters. "None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article."

Thursday's Telegraph quoted retired U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba, who conducted a 2004 investigation into abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, as saying the pictures showed "torture, abuse, rape and every indecency."

The newspaper said at least one picture showed an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Others were said to depict sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

In an interview with the New Yorker magazine published in 2007, Taguba was quoted as saying that he saw a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.

Photographs of abuse at the jail outside Baghdad that were published in 2004 damaged the image of the United States as it fought an escalating war against insurgents in Iraq that caused deep resentment throughout the Muslim world.

Whitman said he did not know if the Telegraph had quoted Taguba accurately. But he said he was not aware that any such photographs had been uncovered as part of the investigation into Abu Ghraib or abuses at other prisons.

via Pentagon denies report Iraq prison photos show rape - Yahoo! News.

Would Whitman know about all of the photos uncovered? If so, he is either lying or this is good news.

ROSWELL DEBRIS CONFIRMED AS EXTRATERRESTRIAL: Lab Located, Scientists Named by Anthony Bragalia

schulgen.jpgNewly discovered documents reveal that in the months immediately following the purported 1947 UFO crash at Roswell, secret government studies began on a material that was previously unknown to science. The "memory metal" that was studied precisely matches some of the debris material reported by several witnesses to the crash. Evidence shows that -under military direction- these unique metal studies were undertaken by a contracted laboratory that possessed advanced technical capabilities that the U.S. government itself did not have at the time. A former high-level scientist employed by the involved laboratory has offered a confession that he was tasked to study the crashed UFO material. Information provided by two U.S. Air Force Generals also offers direct support for this discovery. ...

Battelle scientist Elroy John Center has stated that he analyzed metal from a crashed UFO when he was employed by the Institute. Center was a Senior Research Chemist who worked for Battelle for nearly two decades, from 1939 to 1957. This has been confirmed by both his University of Michigan alumni files and by the location of scientific papers that he authored during his employment while at Battelle.

A graduate Chemical Engineer, Center authored papers that appeared in highly technical journals. His areas of research included the chemical testing of metals; the microdetermination of metals in alloys; and the spectroscopic analysis of unique materials. Center was likely involved in early analysis of the Roswell debris. A groundbreaking metals analysis technique that Center developed has been found cited in studies related to the “polygraphic determination of Titanium” in alloys. Specially-selected Titanium is required to create the Roswell-like "memory metal" Nitinol.

Center's family members confirm that he had an intense interest in UFOs and the extraterrestrial. In May of 1992, noted historical researcher Dr. Irena Scott of Columbus, OH (herself a former Battelle scientist) interviewed a close professional associate of Elroy Center. Elroy had privately related to him in June of 1960 that while he was employed at Battelle he had been involved in a very strange laboratory project. Center said that earlier he had been tasked by his superiors to assist on a highly-classified Battelle study that was contracted by the government. He said that the project involved work on a very unusual material. Center understood that this debris material was retrieved by the US government from the earlier crash of a UFO. Center referred to the item he studied as a "piece." He explained that this "piece" was not something with which anyone was familiar. He also said that the debris had been inscribed with strange symbols that he called "glyphics." Similar markings have of course been reported by some of the witnesses to the Roswell crash debris. Center stopped short of providing any further details. The Battelle scientist passed away in 1991.

via The UFO Iconoclast(s): ROSWELL DEBRIS CONFIRMED AS EXTRATERRESTRIAL: Lab Located, Scientists Named by Anthony Bragalia.

I have some of this material... in wire form. I can't seem to buy a sheet of it from anyone, however.

Scientist Claims UFO Collided with Tunguska Meteorite to Save Earth

Supposedly, the Tunguska crytals. Credit:  MinaClassify this under new of the weird. A Russian scientist claims that aliens downed the Tunguska meteorite 101 years ago to protect our planet from devastation. Yuri Lavbin says he found unusual quartz crystals at the site of the massive Siberian explosion. Ten crystals have holes in them, placed so the stones can be united in a chain, and other have drawings on them. “We don’t have any technologies that can print such kind of drawings on crystals,” said Lavbin. “We also found ferrum silicate that can not be produced anywhere, except in space.”

... The Tunguska Event was a powerful explosion that occurred in an uninhabited and desolate area near the Tunguska River in Russia, on June 30, 1908. Although the cause of the explosion is the subject of debate, it is commonly believed to have been caused by the explosion of a large meteoroid or comet fragment, occurring the in Earth’s atmosphere about 5–10 kilometers (3–6 miles) high. The blast flattened an estimated 60 million trees over 2,150 square kilometers, but no crater or “smoking gun” meteorite has ever been found. Different studies have yielded varying estimates of the object’s size, but there is general agreement that it was a few tens of meters across.

A couple of expeditions have gone to the remote site of the crash. Lavbin says that one expedition located the unusual crystals.

While I’m not a chemist, I couldn’t find any information on “ferrum silicate.” Seemingly, it doesn’t exist.

One small, nondescript photo accompanied Lavbin’s claims, published by the Macedonian International News Agency.

This isn’t the first time a UFO has been claimed to associated with the Tunguska event. Another report from 2004 said a scientific expedition to the site found blocks of an extraterrestrial technical device, and one 50-kilogram piece of the stone was brought to the city of Krasnoyarsk to be studied and analyzed. No subsequent reports or analysis could be located during an internet search.

Other claims of exploding alien spaceships or alien weapons detonating to “save the Earth from an imminent threat” appear to originate from a science fiction story “A Visitor From Outer Space” written by Soviet engineer Alexander Kazantsev in 1946, in which a nuclear-powered Martian spaceship, seeking fresh water from a lake blew up in mid-air. This story was was said to be inspired by Kazantsev’s visit to Hiroshima in late 1945.

via Scientist Claims UFO Collided with Tunguska Meteorite to Save Earth | Universe Today.

Meditation on Demand: Scientific American

meditationIn the fall of 2005, the Dalai Lama gave the inaugural Dialogues between Neuroscience and Society lecture at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, DC. There were over 30,000 neuroscientists registered for the meeting, and it seemed as if most of them attended the talk. The Dalai Lama’s address was designed to highlight the areas of convergence between neuroscience and Buddhist thought about the mind, and to many in the audience he clearly achieved his objective. There was some controversy over his being invited to deliver this lecture insofar as he is both a head of state and a religious leader, and for that reason he largely stuck to his prepared text. But he strayed from the text at least once, reminding the audience that not only was he a Buddhist monk but also an enthusiastic proponent of modern technology.

Elaborating, he shared a confidence with the audience, telling the audience of scientists that meditating was hard work for him (even though he meditates for 4 hours every morning), and that if neuroscientists were able to find a way to put electrodes in his brain and provide him with the same outcome as he gets from meditating, he would be an enthusiastic volunteer. It turns out that a recent set of experiments, from researchers at MIT and Stanford, moves us a step closer to making his wish a reality.


The Dalai Lama’s interest in neuroscience has been reciprocated by at least some members of the neuroscience community. Reasoning that studying the brains of people who meditate might lead to novel insights about the human brain, investigations of long-term meditators has been fertile ground for scientific investigation, with some of the more rigorous work emerging from Richard Davidson’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin. From the perspective of neuroscience, meditation can be characterized as a series of mental exercises by which one strengthens one’s control over the workings of their own brain. The simplest of these meditation practices is ‘focused attention’ where one concentrates on a single object, for example one’s breath. When expert meditators practiced focused attention meditation, demonstrable changes were seen using fMRI in the networks of the brain that are known to modulate attention.

A second set of experiments studied long-term meditators practicing ‘open monitoring meditation’, a more advanced meditation practice which in many ways is a form of metacognition: the objective is not to focus one’s attention but rather to use one’s brain to monitor the universe of mental experience without directing attention to any one task. The unexpected result of this experiment was that the EEG of long-term meditators exhibited much more gamma-synchrony than that of naive meditators. Moreover, normally human brains produce only short bursts of gamma-synchrony. What was most remarkable about this study was that long-term meditators were able to produce sustained gamma-activity in a manner that had never previously been observed in any other human. As such, sustained gamma activity has emerged as a proxy for at least some aspects of the meditative state.
Gamma Waves
But what causes gamma rhythm? And are there any potential benefits of sustained gamma-activity? The strongest hypothesis for the cellular mechanisms underlying generation of the gamma rhythm is that it is due to the activation of fast-spiking interneurons in the cerebral cortex.  ...

via Meditation on Demand: Scientific American.

Did President Kennedy meet extraterrestrials?

President Kennedy arrives at Homestead AFB, 1962Image: President Kennedy arrives at Homestead AFB, Florida, 1962.

According to claims in a rare video, George Adamski met with President Kennedy at the White House in late 1961 and passed on a letter to him from human looking extraterrestrials. In addition to giving advice on the Cuban missile crisis, the alleged letter also contained an invitation for Kennedy to meet with the extraterrestrials. If Kennedy did attend such a meeting, it may explain why he was certain about human looking extraterrestrial life; made undisclosed trips to Air Force bases to deal with the UFO issue; and why he instructed NASA to cooperate with the USSR on joint space and lunar missions, and to release classified UFO files.

Lou Zinstag, Carl Jung’s niece describes what she was told by Adamski concerning Kennedy’s alleged meeting with extraterrestrials:

I still remember his [Adamski’s] White House story. He told me that he had been entrusted with a written invitation for President Kennedy to visit one of the space people’s huge mother ships at a secret airbase in Desert Hot Springs, California, for few days. In order to keep this visit absolutely secret, Adamski was to take the invitation directly to the White House through a side door. Still glowing with excitement and smiling happily, he explained how the row of cars in which his taxi was traveling had to stop because of a red light just in front of this particular door where a man he knew - a spaceman, he said - was standing ready to let him in. Adamski later learned that Kennedy had spent several hours at the airbase after having canceled an important trip to New York, and that he had a long talk with the ships crew, but that he had not been invited for a flight."

The quality of witness testimonies, photos and film evidence presented in the rare video (see part one of this investigative series), all lead to the conclusion that George Adamski was largely telling the truth about his flying saucer sightings and contacts with human looking extraterrestrials. There is however no direct physical evidence that Kennedy met with the extraterrestrials Adamski was in contact with. There is, however, circumstantial evidence that such a meeting did happen, and it influenced Kennedy’s policies on space cooperation and UFOs.

via Honolulu Exopolitics Examiner: Did President Kennedy meet extraterrestrials?.

Neuroscience Sheds New Light on Creativity

Rewiring the Creative MindClose your eyes and visualize the sun setting over a beach.

How detailed was your image? Did you envision a bland orb sinking below calm waters, or did you call up an image filled with activity -- palm trees swaying gently, waves lapping at your feet, perhaps a loved one holding your hand?

Now imagine you're standing on the surface of Pluto. What would a sunset look like from there? Notice how hard you had to work to imagine this

scene. Did you picture a featureless ball of ice with the sun a speck of light barely brighter than a star along the horizon? Did you envision frozen lakes of exotic chemicals or icy fjords glimmering in the starlight?

What you conjured illuminates how our brains work, why it can be so hard to come up with new ideas -- and how you can rewire your mind to open up the holy grail of creativity. Recent advances in neuroscience, driven by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that lets scientists watch brain activity as never before, have changed what we know about key attributes of creativity. These advances, for example, have swept away the idea that there is a pleasure center in the brain that somehow acts as an accelerator to the engine of human behavior. Rather, chemicals such as dopamine shuttle between neurons in ways that look remarkably like the calculations modern robots perform.

Creativity and imagination begin with perception. Neuroscientists have come to realize that how you perceive something isn't simply a product of what your eyes and ears transmit to your brain. It's a product of your brain itself. And iconoclasts, a class of people I define as those who do something that others say can't be done -- think Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, or Florence Nightingale -- see things differently. Literally. Some iconoclasts are born that way, but we all can learn how to see things not for what they are, but for what they might be.

Perception and imagination are linked because the brain uses the same neural circuits for both functions. Imagination is like running perception in reverse. The reason it's so difficult to imagine truly novel ideas has to do with how the brain interprets signals from your eyes. The images that strike your retina do not, by themselves, tell you with certainty what you are seeing. Visual perception is largely a result of statistical expectations, the brain's way of explaining ambiguous visual signals in the most likely way. And the likelihood of these explanations is a direct result of past experience.

Entire books have been written about learning, but the important elements for creative thinkers can be boiled down to this: Experience modifies the connections between neurons so that they become more efficient at processing information. Neuroscientists have observed that while an entire network of neurons might process a stimulus initially, by about the sixth presentation, the heavy lifting is performed by only a subset of neurons. Because fewer neurons are being used, the network becomes more efficient in carrying out its function.

The brain is fundamentally a lazy piece of meat. It doesn't want to waste energy. That's why there is a striking lack of imagination in most people's visualization of a beach sunset.

via Neuroscience Sheds New Light on Creativity - Rewiring the Creative Mind | Fast Company.

Space rock yields carbon bounty

Tagish meteorite (I Nicklin)Formic acid, a molecule implicated in the origins of life, has been found at record levels on a meteorite that fell into a Canadian lake in 2000. Cold temperatures on Tagish Lake prevented the volatile chemical from dissipating quickly.

An analysis showed four times more formic acid in the fragments than has been recorded on previous meteorites. The researchers told a meeting of the American Geophysical Union that the formic acid was extraterrestrial.

Formic acid is one of a group of compounds dubbed "organics", because they are rich in carbon.

"We are lucky that the meteorite was untouched by humans hands, avoiding contamination by organic compounds that we have on our fingers," said Dr Christopher Herd, the curator of the University of Alberta's meteorite collection.

Samples of the meteorite totalling 850 grams were collected from Tagish Lake in Canada, purchased in 2006 by a consortium including the Royal Ontario Museum and recently subjected to chemical analysis.

The scientists found levels of formic acid four times higher than had previously been recorded on a meteorite. Studies have until recently focused on the Murchison meteorite that landed in a town of that name in Australia in 1969.

"The interesting thing is that we do see this variability between meteorites, seeming to have increased enrichments of one particular compound over another," said Mark Sephton, a meteorite and geochemistry professor at Imperial College London.

"This has for a while been overlooked as we concentrated predominantly on the Murchison meteorite, but now we've got another fresh sample and we can start to analyse a different portion of the asteroid belt and therefore a different portion of the Solar System."


The Murchison meteorite contains many types of amino acids

The particular types, or isotopes, of hydrogen that are found in the formic acid show that it most likely formed in the cold regions of space before our Solar System existed.

On Earth, formic acid is commonly found in the stings of insects such as ants, but Professor Sephton it is likely to have been an important "ingredient in the kitchen" on Earth before life began.

via BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Space rock yields carbon bounty.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NKorea threatens to attack US, SKorean warships

A couple stands by North Korea's Scud-B missile, center green, and other South North Korea threatened military action Wednesday against U.S. and South Korean warships plying the waters near the Koreas' disputed maritime border, raising the specter of a naval clash just days after the regime's underground nuclear test.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned that Pyongyang faced unspecified consequences because of its "provocative and belligerent" acts.

Pyongyang, reacting angrily to Seoul's decision to join an international program to intercept ships suspected of aiding nuclear proliferation, called South Korea's decision tantamount to a declaration of war.

"Now that the South Korean puppets were so ridiculous as to join in the said racket and dare declare a war against compatriots," North Korea is "compelled to take a decisive measure," the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried by state media.

The North Korean army called it a violation of the armistice the two Koreas signed in 1953 to end their three-year war, and said it would no longer honor the treaty.

South Korea's military said Wednesday it was prepared to "respond sternly" to any North Korean provocation.

Clinton said "there are consequences to such actions," referring to discussions in the United Nations meant to punish North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests.

She also underscored the firmness of the U.S. treaty commitment to defend South Korea and Japan, U.S. allies in easy reach of North Korean missiles.

North Korea's latest belligerence comes as the U.N. Security Council debates how to punish the regime for testing a nuclear bomb Monday in what President Barack Obama called a "blatant violation" of international law.

via NKorea threatens to attack US, SKorean warships - Yahoo! News.

Police find feral girl in Siberia police have taken into care a 5-year-old girl who has been shut up in a flat in the company of cats and dogs for her entire life, police said on Wednesday.

The girl, who lived in the Eastern Siberian city of Chita, could not speak Russian and acted like an dog when police took her into care.

"For five years, the girl was 'brought up' by several dogs and cats and had never been outside," a police statement said.

"The unwashed girl was dressed in filthy clothes, had the clear attributes of an animal and jumped at people," it said.

The flat had no heat, water or sewage system.

A police spokeswoman said the girl, known as Natasha, is being monitored by psychologists in an orphanage. Her mother was being questioned but her father has not been found yet.

She appears to be about 2-years-old, though her real age is five, refuses to eat with a spoon and has taken on many of the gestures of the animals with which she lived, police said.

"When carers leave the room, the girl jumps at the door and barks," the police said.

Feral children, the stuff of folklore all over the world, usually exhibit the behaviour of the animals with whom they have had closest contact, a condition known as the Mowgli Syndrome after the fictional child from Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" who was raised by wolves in the jungle.

Such children have usually built strong ties with the animals with whom they lived and find the transition to normal human contact extremely traumatic.

via Police find feral girl in Siberia - Yahoo! News.

Priest fired for beating drug addicts Serbian Orthodox Church has dismissed a priest running a treatment centre for drug addicts after videos showed patients being kicked and punched.

Bishop Artemije, in charge of the Rasko-Prizrenska diocese, said he ordered an inquiry into the activities of priest Branislav Peranovic at the Crna Reka centre, about 300 kilometres (187 miles) southwest of the capital Belgrade.

"We will shut down the facility if the reports about beatings and violence persist," Artemije said in a statement.

The bishop said he decided against closing it "after numerous pleadings by the patients and their parents."

"We are also asking state authorities to investigate the matter and punish those responsible," the statement said.

Last week, the Holy Synod, the church's top body, asked Artemije to shut down the centre that houses about 200 patients near the southwestern city of Novi Pazar.

Two separate videos made public by Belgrade's Vreme weekly and B92 TV showed one of the centre's employees and Peranovic repeatedly beating patients with a shovel, and kicking and hitting them inside a room decorated with icons.

The government's human rights watchdog Sasa Jankovic has filed criminal charges against the centre and Peranovic.

This week Serbian health authorities said the Crna Reka centre was not registered to undertake drug rehabilitation.

Peranovic told B92 TV the beatings were a "hard and unwanted, but necessary part of treatment."

He said that on admission, patients and their parents had to sign a written consent approving the use of violence "for therapeutic purposes."

via Priest fired for beating drug addicts - Yahoo! News.

Cancer errases man's fingerprints, causes airport security event Singapore cancer patient was held for four hours by immigration officials in the United States when they could not detect his fingerprints -- which had apparently disappeared because of a drug he was taking.

The incident, highlighted in the Annals of Oncology, was reported by the patient's doctor, Tan Eng Huat, who advised cancer patients taking this drug to carry a doctor's letter when travelling to the United States.

The drug, capecitabine, is commonly used to treat cancers in the head and neck, breast, stomach and colorectum.

One side-effect is chronic inflammation of the palms or soles of the feet and the skin can peel, bleed and develop ulcers or blisters -- or what is known as hand-foot syndrome.

"This can give rise to eradication of fingerprints with time," explained Tan, senior consultant in the medical oncology department at Singapore's National Cancer Centre.

The patient, a 62-year-old man, had head and neck cancer that had spread but responded well to chemotherapy. To prevent the cancer from recurring, he was put on capecitabine.

"In December 2008, after more than three years of capecitabine, he went to the United States to visit his relatives," Tan wrote.

"He was detained at the airport customs for four hours because the immigration officers could not detect his fingerprints. He was allowed to enter after the custom officers were satisfied that he was not a security threat."

Tan said the loss of fingerprints is not described in the packaging of the drug, although chronic inflammation of the palms and soles of feet is included.

"The topmost layer ... is the layer that accounts for the fingerprint, that (losing that top layer) is all it takes (to lose a fingerprint)," Tan told Reuters.

"Theoretically, if you stop the drug, it will grow back but details are scanty.

via Cancer patient held at U.S. airport for missing fingerprint - Yahoo! News.

Let's get real about alternative energy

This is an important perspective on alternative energy from David MacKay, a professor of physics at the University of Cambridge:
David MacKay says people engage in wishful thinking about energy because they don't look at the math.We need to introduce simple arithmetic into our discussions of energy.

We need to understand how much energy our chosen lifestyles consume, we need to decide where we want that energy to come from, and we need to get on with building energy systems of sufficient size to match our desired consumption.  ...

Let's express energy consumption and energy production using simple personal units, namely kilowatt-hours. One kilowatt-hour (kWh) is the energy used by leaving a 40-watt bulb on for 24 hours. The chemical energy in the food we eat to stay alive amounts to about 3 kWh per day. Taking one hot bath uses about 5 kWh of heat. Driving an average European car 100 kilometers (roughly 62 miles) uses 80 kWh of fuel. With a few of these numbers in mind, we can start to evaluate some of the recommendations that people make about energy. ...

In total, the European lifestyle uses 125 kWh per day per person for transport, heating, manufacturing, and electricity. That's equivalent to every person having 125 light bulbs switched on all the time. The average American uses 250 kWh per day: 250 light bulbs.

And most of this energy today comes from fossil fuels. What are our post-fossil-fuel options?

Among the energy-saving options, two promising technology switches are the electrification of transportation (electric vehicles can be about four times as energy-efficient as standard fossil-fuel vehicles) and the use of electric-powered heat pumps to deliver winter heating and hot water (heat pumps can be four times as energy-efficient as standard heaters).

Among all the energy-supply technologies, the three with the biggest potential today are solar power, wind power and nuclear power.

As a thought-experiment, let's imagine that technology switches and lifestyle changes manage to halve American energy consumption to 125 kWh per day per person. How big would the solar, wind and nuclear facilities need to be to supply this halved consumption? For simplicity, let's imagine getting one-third of the energy supply from each.

To supply 42 kWh per day per person from solar power requires roughly 80 square meters per person of solar panels.

To deliver 42 kWh per day per person from wind for everyone in the United States would require wind farms with a total area roughly equal to the area of California, a 200-fold increase in United States wind power.

To get 42 kWh per day per person from nuclear power would require 525 one-gigawatt nuclear power stations, a roughly five-fold increase over today's levels.

I hope these numbers convey the scale of action required to put in place a sustainable energy solution.

via Commentary: Let's get real about alternative energy -

Romania Targets Moon with Balloon-Launched Ball

Nearly 40 years after Americans first set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969 with NASA's historic Apollo 11 flight, a host of private rocketeers are hoping to follow to win a $30 million prize. Here, looks at ARCA, one of 17 teams competing in the Google Lunar X Prize:

Former X Prize contenders such as the Romanian team ARCA could have called it a day when Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize on Oct. 4, 2004. Instead, ARCA hopes to build on its previous effort to reach the moon and win the Google Lunar X Prize and even more prize money.

"We have the experience now, we have the know-how, we have a list of companies that can help us, we have connections," said Bogdan Sburlea, ARCA (Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association) project manager. "We already have some technology from the previous competition."

That tested technology includes a balloon that can carry ARCA's European Lunar Explorer (ELE) space probe into the upper atmosphere, eliminating the need for a traditional launch pad and allowing ARCA to launch close to the equator from a sea platform. The "0" pressure balloon design is similar to a giant black hot-air balloon that uses solar energy to heat the air inside, instead of the burner that normal hot-air balloons use.

Once the balloon soars above 11 miles (18 km), the three-stage rocket slung below will fire and boost itself into low Earth orbit. ELE will then travel to the moon and deploy its Lunar Lander, which resembles a knobby rubber ball that uses its own rocket engine to ensure a soft landing.

The Google Lunar X Prize requires teams to land a robot on the moon, move at least 1,640 feet (500 meters) and beam high definition views back to Earth. ARCA's round lander would skim the lunar surface using its rocket engine.

Unlike some teams with plans for lunar rovers or crawlers, ARCA sprang for the easiest lunar lander they could design. The team's focus is on getting to the moon, as opposed to what happens once they get there.

"Our design for the lander is extremely simple, it's a sphere," Sburlea said. "It's too complicated, too expensive to build a robot."

via Romania Targets Moon with Balloon-Launched Ball - Yahoo! News.

Opposites attract in human search for mate it comes to choosing a mate, opposites really do attract, according to a Brazilian study that found people are subconsciously more likely to choose a partner whose genetic make-up is different to their own.

They found evidence that married couples are more likely to have genetic differences in a DNA region governing the immune system than were randomly matched pairs.

This was likely to be an evolutionary strategy to ensure healthy reproduction because genetic variability is an advantage for offspring, Maria da Graca Bicalho and her colleagues at the University of Parana in Brazil reported.

"Although it may be tempting to think that humans choose their partners because of their similarities, our research has shown clearly that it is differences that make for successful reproduction, and that the subconscious drive to have healthy children is important when choosing a mate," Bicalho said in a statement.

Scientists said it was not clear what signals attract the body to people who are genetically dissimilar to themselves, but suggested body odor or even face structure could play a role.

Many researchers have found evidence than animals are attracted to members of the opposite sex with differences in major histocompatibility complex or MHC, an immune system factor that also plays a role in having healthy offspring.

Bicalho, who will present her findings at a conference of the European Society of Human Genetics in Vienna on Monday, said the team compared genetic data from 90 married couples with data from 152 randomly generated control couples.

They found the real couples had significantly more dissimilarities in MHC.

"Parents with dissimilar (genetic regions) could provide their offspring with a better chance to ward infections off because their immune system genes are more diverse," they wrote in a summary prepared for the meeting.

via Opposites attract in human search for mate - Yahoo! News.

'Slumdog' filmmakers meet poor kid stars in Mumbai

The makers of "Slumdog Millionaire" met the film's two impoverished child stars on Wednesday and reassured them they will soon have new homes. But the father of one of the children stormed out, saying the filmmakers have not done enough to help.

Rubina Ali, 9, and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10, both lost their homes this month after city authorities demolished parts of their slum in Mumbai. Rubina has been staying with relatives and Azhar has been living in a makeshift shanty of tarps and blankets with his parents.

"We've been trying for a long time to move them into legal accommodation," director Danny Boyle told reporters at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on the outskirts of Mumbai, where he and producer Christian Colson met the children and their families.

Relations between the filmmakers and the children's families have grown tense since the phenomenal success of the film, which grossed more than $326 million.

The filmmakers set up a trust aimed at ensuring the children get proper homes, a decent education, a monthly stipend and a nest egg when they finish high school. They have pledged to spend up to $100,000 to buy the two families new apartments and have donated $747,500 to a charity to help slum children across Mumbai.

Colson has described the trust as substantial, but will not tell anyone how much it contains — not even the children's parents — for fear of making the youngsters vulnerable to exploitation.

Nirja Mattoo, who helps oversee the children's trust, said a new home has been found for Azhar's family near to his school and neighborhood. "We are finalizing the deal. Next week it should be done," she said.

The hunt for Rubina's house continues, she added.

But Rafiq Qureshi, Rubina's father, said Boyle has not done enough.

"It's no big deal for them, this kind of money. It's been five or six months we've been living in such difficulty. They should help us," he said in an interview after he cut the meeting short in anger.

"After the Oscars they forgot about us," he added. "For two months we didn't get any money."

Mattoo declined to comment on Qureshi's behavior.

via 'Slumdog' filmmakers meet poor kid stars in Mumbai - Yahoo! News.

Ex-schools trustee gets probation in ketchup theft former school board trustee from Southern California has been sentenced to two years of informal probation for stealing a bottle of ketchup from a college dining area.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Jacki Brown on Tuesday also ordered Steve Rocco to pay about $200 in fines and stay 100 yards away from the college.

Rocco was convicted by a jury last month of misdemeanor petty theft for stealing a 14-ounce bottle of ketchup from a Chapman University dining area.

The eccentric former Orange Unified School District trustee known for espousing conspiracy theories claims authorities planted the ketchup near his bicycle to make it look like a theft when he was recycling the bottle.

He says he will appeal.

via Ex-schools trustee gets probation in ketchup theft - Yahoo! News.

Inserted gene passed along to monkey offspring have shown that transgenic monkeys can pass a newly acquired gene along to their offspring, a "milestone" for creating animals with versions of human diseases for medical research.

While researchers have long created transgenic mice and other animals by giving them extra genetic material, monkeys offer a promising avenue for medical studies because of their similarity to humans.

Researchers have added genes to rhesus macaques before, but the new work with marmosets is the first to document that monkeys can pass an inserted gene along to future generations. That's important because it opens the door to creating colonies of such "transgenic" monkeys by breeding, which would be far simpler than the cumbersome process of making each animal from scratch by inserting genes into embryos.

The work is reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature by scientists at the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Kawasaki, Japan, and elsewhere in that country.

The researchers plan to use transgenic marmosets to study such conditions as Parkinson's disease and Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS, a statement from the institute said.

Anthony Chan of the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta said the result boosts his confidence that his transgenic macaques will also pass along their added genes to offspring, once they become old enough to reproduce.

For the study, the researchers used a gene that makes tissues glow under ultraviolet light, as an easy way to see where the gene is present. They put the gene in a virus that would insert it into the DNA of cells, and then injected the virus into marmoset embryos. From these embryos, five healthy marmosets were born. All showed evidence of having inherited the gene.

Later, one of those animals fathered a male by test-tube fertilization. The gene was shown to be active in the offspring's skin.

via Inserted gene passed along to monkey offspring - Yahoo! News.

Space storm caught slamming into Earth's atmosphere

A space storm has been observed exploding from a central point in Earth's upper atmosphere for the first time. The result could one day lead to better predictions of the storms, which can harm satellites and power grids on the ground.

The energy that powers space storms comes from clouds of plasma hurled at Earth by the sun. These clouds stretch our planet's magnetic field like a rubber band, storing energy in a long magnetic tail behind our planet.

The energy released when the field snaps back into place creates the ethereal glow of auroras (see a gallery of the light shows). It also floods the space around our planet with radiation that can incapacitate satellites and sicken astronauts, and can trigger electric currents on Earth capable of knocking out power gridsMovie Camera.

Now, scientists have obtained the clearest view yet of the energy that was released in the magnetic tail arriving and initiating a disturbance in Earth's upper atmosphere, or ionosphere.

via Space storm caught slamming into Earth's atmosphere - space - 26 May 2009 - New Scientist.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How I avoided two painful and expensive dental procedures

When it comes to your health, don't trust just one expert's view. Consult several. Keep looking until you find the best option.

I was told about a year ago that I needed a deep cleaning which would involve two dental visits and 11 shots to get me numb each time. I broke a tooth below the gum line and on the part that came out, I could see tartar (aka calculus), hard rough spots of different colored "stuff" clinging to my broken tooth.

Meanwhile, I got sick for about a month and I had swollen glands in my neck. From these symptoms, I believed I had an infection due to build up below the gum line. This is very common in adults after a certain age.

On a whim, I googled the phrase "dissolve tartar". To my pleasant surprise, I found a solution to avoid a deep cleaning: Periogen! No tartar = no gum disease = no need for a deep cleaning.

Today, after a month of Periogen use and a few weeks of CoQ10 use, I finally had my exam--along with an ordinary dental cleaning.

RESULTS: I was told by the hygienist today that my gums look very healthy. He only found one small spot with any plaque, and said that I am very far from needing the "root scaling and planing" procedure, also known as a deep cleaning. My pocket depths were all 2's and 3's with two 4 millimeter readings back near where I had my wisdom teeth out.

Note: To avoid bias, I did not tell him that another dentist had recommended a deep cleaning until after I had the results.

Either Periogen did remove the tartar as it claims and did fix my gums (the CoQ10 I've been taking for a few weeks may have helped too)  or I previously had a dentist who was recommending a procedure I did not need. (This is the same dentist who told me I had worn down a tooth by flossing too much. I still do not think ordinary floss can damage a tooth with normal flossing, even if you saw back and forth for a minute a day... which I didn't anyway...)

Back to my main point: Hats off to Perigen!! Healthy Gums!! No shots required!!! Not only did I have a good dental check up, but I believe that by removing the breeding grounds for gum disease bacteria, I am also improving my overall general health.

Here is how Periogen dissolves tarter:

Periogen® works by exploiting a weakness discovered by The Periogen Company in the fundamental structure of oral tartar.  Their patent pending composition and process is exclusive and cannot be found in any other gum disease treatment in the world.  All other treatments only address infections below the gum line.  Periogen® however, addresses infection and also dissolves layer after layer of disease-laden tartar with each application.

The number of Periogen® applications necessary to remove all tartar depends directly on the thickness of deposits.  Once tartar is completely removed from teeth below the gum line, natural processes restore gum-tooth connections and close periodontal pockets.  This simple and painless process facilitates complete periodontal recovery without the need for painful, expensive, and often ineffective tartar removal dental office procedures.

Tartar, above and below the gum line, is comprised primarily of calcium phosphate salts, saliva, debris and other minerals.  Visually, the structure of tartar is that of millions of fossilized bacteria bound together in tens of thousands of layers.  Up until now, tartar has been universally understood to be inert - so hard that only mechanical scraping with steel dental instruments could remove it.  Living within this porous material are fresh bacteria that ferment infection after infection.  This tartar-bacteria connection is the true nature of periodontal disease.

Periogen® does not dissolve the hardened tartar directly, but acts to dissolve the binding agents – the “cement” which holds fossilized bacteria and debris together.  Microscopic study of Periogen® in action shows that thousands of individual fossilized bacteria disconnect and float free from cemented-together tartar “communities” with each application.  Each application is as effective as the last, until tartar is dissolved into its most fundamental microscopic components.

All the while during this innovative, alternative treatment, new bacteria simply have no place to live – so infections disperse and do not return - completely naturally - without the use of powerful anti-bacterial agents.  In fact, Periogen® users can expect relief from the pain, bleeding and soreness of periodontal disease within the first few days of use.

Once periodontal pockets close to within 3 millimeters or so in depth, normal brushing and irrigating (or flossing) can maintain your newly restored dental health.  As an option, patients may continue to irrigate with Periogen® over the long-term to prevent tartar from accumulating above and below the gum line.  It has been reported that during such maintenance periods including Periogen,® routine dental visits are tartar-free and “most enjoyable.”

One more tip: Avoid Crown Lengthening with Laser Dentistry

I also recently avoided another recommended painful and disfiguring surgical procedure known as a crown lengthening by finding a laser dentist who could cut away the gums enough to work around the one tooth. I believe this is known as laser de-epithelialization. This was just one visit to the laser dentist and did not involve lowering my gums, exposing roots of other teeth, or filing down my jaw bone.

It was slightly gross to have my gums burned away around the tooth, and it was sensitive for a week or more, but SO much better than the alternative which I learned about in detail by consulting a periodontist.

I understand the Periodontist's explanation that a smooth surface is required for good attachment and to avoid future decay, but if the laser works, you save a huge amount of pain, money and future discomfort from exposure of the roots of your nearby teeth!

The good thing about the laser is that it encourages regrowth of Keratinized Gingiva the tough gum tissue that attaches to your teeth and protects the roots.

If the crown lengthening is done with laser therapy instead of the traditional surgical intervention, the healing will tend to be quicker and the procedure will have less swelling and discomfort as a rule. Not all lasers are appropriate for this procedure. - tgs