Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Palladium is up!

Remember that tip I gave you? I just checked and I've made $3139.00 so far buying palladium.

One oz of palladium is up to $479.50 today. This is strange because historically it should be going DOWN in March, not up. I think it will hit $500 or higher.

I may start selling my coins to friends so they can get in on the action.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A slow mind may nurture more creative ideas

<a href="">White matter writ large (Image: UCLA Lab of Neuro Imaging)</a>AS FAR as the internet or phone networks go, bad connections are bad news. Not so in the brain, where slower connections may make people more creative.

Rex Jung at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and his colleagues had found that creativity correlates with low levels of the chemical N-acetylaspartate, which is found in neurons and seems to promote neural health and metabolism.

But neurons make up the brain's grey matter - the tissue traditionally associated with thinking power, rather than creativity. So Jung is now focusing his creativity studies on white matter, which is largely made of the fatty myelin sheaths that wrap around neurons. Less myelin means the white matter has a lower "integrity" and transmits information more slowly.

Several recent studies have suggested that white matter of high integrity in the cortex, which is associated with higher mental function, means increased intelligence. But when Jung looked at the link between white matter and creativity, he found something quite different.

He used diffusion tensor imaging to study the white matter of 72 volunteers. Unlike MRI, which measures tissue volume, DTI measures the direction in which water diffuses through white matter, an indication of its integrity.

The volunteers' capacity for divergent thinking - a factor in creativity that includes coming up with new ideas - had already been tested. Jung found that the most creative people had lower white-matter integrity in a region connecting the prefrontal cortex to a deeper structure called the thalamus, compared with their less creative peers (PLoS ONE, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009818).

Jung suggests that slower communication between some areas may actually make people more creative. "This might allow for the linkage of more disparate ideas, more novelty, and more creativity," he says.

Other studies have hinted that white matter might be similarly affected in some psychiatric disorders (see "The brain's other half"). So the result also strengthens the link between creativity and mental illness. One of the triggers for Jung's study was the finding that when white matter begins to break down in people with dementia, they often become more creative.

The results are surprising, given that high white-matter integrity is normally considered a good thing, says Paul Thompson at the University of California in Los Angeles. He acknowledges that speedy information transfer may not be vital for creative thought. "Sheer mental speed might be good for playing chess or doing a Rubik's cube, but you don't necessarily think of writing novels or creating art as being something that requires sheer mental speed," he says. ...

via A slow mind may nurture more creative ideas - life - 30 March 2010 - New Scientist.

Atom smasher will help reveal 'the beginning'

FILE - In this March 22, 2007 file photo, the magnet core of ...The world's largest atom smasher threw together minuscule particles racing at unheard of speeds in conditions simulating those just after the Big Bang — a success that kick-started a megabillion-dollar experiment that could one day explain how the universe began.

Scientists cheered Tuesday's historic crash of two proton beams, which produced three times more energy than researchers had created before and marked a milestone for the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider.

"This is a huge step toward unraveling Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1 — what happened in the beginning," physicist Michio Kaku told The Associated Press.

"This is a Genesis machine. It'll help to recreate the most glorious event in the history of the universe."

Tuesday's smashup transforms the 15-year-old collider from an engineering project in test phase to the world's largest ongoing experiment, experts say. The crash that occurred on a subatomic scale is more about shaping our understanding of how the universe was created than immediate improvements to technology in our daily lives.

The power produced will ramp up even more in the future as scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, watch for elusive particles that have been more theorized than seen on Earth.

The consequences of finding those mysterious particles could "affect our conception of who we are in the universe," said Kaku, co-founder of string field theory and author of the book "Physics of the Impossible."

Physicists, usually prone to caution and nuance, tripped over themselves in superlatives praising the importance of the Large Hadron Collider and the significance of its generating regular science experiments.

"This is the Jurassic Park for particle physicists," said Phil Schewe, a spokesman for the American Institute of Physics. He called the collider a time machine. "Some of the particles they are making now or are about to make haven't been around for 14 billion years."

via Atom smasher will help reveal 'the beginning' - Yahoo! News.

******* SPOILER WARNING ******

We actually end up creating the Universe by trying to figure out what created the Universe.  The future influences the past because the future is the past. Time is an illusion.  Don't try to understand it.

James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

James LovelockHumans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.

It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists' emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.

"I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change," said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. "The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful."

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."

Lovelock, 90, believes the world's best hope is to invest in adaptation measures, such as building sea defences around the cities that are most vulnerable to sea-level rises. He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.

"That would be the sort of event that would change public opinion," he said. "Or a return of the dust bowl in the mid-west. Another Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report won't be enough. We'll just argue over it like now." The IPCC's 2007 report concluded that there was a 90% chance that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing global warming, but the panel has been criticised over a mistaken claim that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2030.

Lovelock says the events of the recent months have seen him warming to the efforts of the "good" climate sceptics: "What I like about sceptics is that in good science you need critics that make you think: 'Crumbs, have I made a mistake here?' If you don't have that continuously, you really are up the creek. The good sceptics have done a good service, but some of the mad ones I think have not done anyone any favours.

via James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change | Environment | The Guardian.

I agree. Denial may doom our species... but at the moment there are waaaaay too many of us... so bring on the floods.  Our descendants who survive the hot phase will be amazing individuals.

For one tiny instant, physicists may have broken a law of nature

For a brief instant, it appears, scientists at Brook­haven National Laboratory on Long Island recently discovered a law of nature had been broken.

Action still resulted in an equal and opposite reaction, gravity kept the Earth circling the Sun, and conservation of energy remained intact. But for the tiniest fraction of a second at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), physicists created a symmetry-breaking bubble of space where parity no longer existed.

Parity was long thought to be a fundamental law of nature. It essentially states that the universe is neither right- nor left-handed -- that the laws of physics remain unchanged when expressed in inverted coordinates. In the early 1950s it was found that the so-called weak force, which is responsible for nuclear radioactivity, breaks the parity law. However, the strong force, which holds together subatomic particles, was thought to adhere to the law of parity, at least under normal circumstances.

Now this law appears to have been broken by a team of about a dozen particle physicists, including Jack Sandweiss, Yale's Donner Professor of Physics. Since 2000, Sandweiss has been smashing the nuclei of gold atoms together as part of the STAR experiment at RHIC, a 2.4-mile-circumference particle accelerator, to study the law of parity under the resulting extreme conditions.

The team created something called a quark-gluon plasma -- a kind of "soup" that results when energies reach high enough levels to break up protons and neutrons into their constituent quarks and gluons, the fundamental building blocks of matter.

Theorists believe this kind of quark-gluon plasma, which has a temperature of four trillion degrees Celsius, existed just after the Big Bang, when the universe was only a microsecond old. The plasma "bubble" created in the collisions at RHIC lasted for a mere millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second, yet the team hopes to use it to learn more about how structure in the universe -- from black holes to galaxies -- may have formed out of the soup.

When the gold nuclei, traveling at 99.999% of the speed of light, smashed together, the plasma that resulted was so energetic that a tiny cube of it with sides measuring about a quarter of the width of a human hair would contain enough energy to power the entire United States for a year.

It was the equally gargantuan magnetic field produced by the plasma -- the strongest ever created -- that alerted the physicists that one of nature's laws might have been broken.

"A very interesting thing happened in these extreme conditions," Sandweiss says. "Parity violation is very difficult to detect, but the magnetic field in conjunction with parity violation gave rise to a secondary effect that we could detect." ...

via For one tiny instant, physicists may have broken a law of nature.

Some people break a few laws of nature every morning before breakfast.

Astronomers discover 90 per cent more universe

Astronomers have found that found that 90 per cent of galaxies have gone undetectedAstronomers know that many surveys of the universe miss a large proportion of their targets, but a new survey has found that 90 per cent of galaxies have gone undetected.

Traditional surveys use light emitted by hydrogen, known as the Lyman-alpha line, to probe the number of stars in the distant universe.

But the new survey found that Lyman-alpha light gets trapped within the galaxy that emits it and that 90 per cent of galaxies do not show up in Lyman-alpha surveys, according to Universe Today.

Astronomers always knew they were missing some fraction of the galaxies in Lyman-alpha surveys,' explains Matthew Hayes, the lead author of the paper, published this week in Nature.

'But for the first time we now have a measurement. The number of missed galaxies is substantial.'

Using the new HAWK-I camera attached to a telescope, Mr Hayes and his team surveyed an area of space previously measured in terms of Lyman-alpha light.

The new survey recorded light emitted at a different wavelength also by glowing hydrogen and known as the H-alpha line.

They specifically looked at galaxies whose light has been travelling for 10 billion years.

'This is the first time we have observed a patch of the sky so deeply in light coming from hydrogen at these two very specific wavelengths, and this proved crucial,' said team member Goran Ostlin.

The astronomers concluded that traditional surveys carried out using Lyman-alpha only see a tiny part of the total light that is produced, since most of the Lyman-alpha photons are destroyed by interaction with the interstellar clouds of gas and dust.

As a result, as much as 90 per cent of galaxies go unseen in these surveys.

'If there are ten galaxies seen, there could be a hundred there,' Mr Hayes said.

'Now that we know how much light we’ve been missing, we can start to create far more accurate representations of the cosmos, understanding better how quickly stars have formed at different times in the life of the universe,' said co-author Miguel Mas-Hesse.

via Astronomers discover 90 per cent more universe | Mail Online.

They may not realize that they are seeing space time warps which cause some galaxies to be duplicated.

Teen sees with 'kaleidoscope eyes' The Beatles sang about Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and her kaleidoscope eyes, they could have been talking about 19-year-old Danielle Burton.

British teen, Danielle Burton has been diagnosed with Persistent Migraine Aura, where a nerve in the brain is stuck in a constant state of migraine, causing 'visual snow'.

PMA is a medical condition suffered by just twenty people worldwide.

Suffering from PMA is like looking through the lens of a kaleidoscope, where the field of vision is crowded by colourful clouds, zig-zags or blurring.

The condition came on suddenly last October, when Burton, from Portsmouth, thought she was suffering another migraine.

"The next day, it was not any better. I got in the shower but as soon as the water hit my back, my sight went completely," she explained.

After scans revealed no problem with her eyes, Burton was at a loss until a doctor in January diagnosed her with PMA in January.

"I have had [PMA] for six months now and I have got my eyesight back for one hour in that time," she said.

Sometimes she can make out fuzzy shapes and but spends the majority of the time with colours snowing in front of her like "television static."

At times, she is rendered completely blind by purple and blue florescent clouds.

Her symptoms are considered some of the worst in PMA sufferers, as she cannot escape the bright colours, even when her eyes are closed.

"Even when I see, I can't see what a normal person can see. It is television static, there are lots of different colours raining the whole time," she said.

Burton is looking for other people to offer any information about her condition, as doctors have been of limited help.

From all of this, she has gained a newfound appreciation of the wonder of sight.

"I went 19 years of my life being able to see everything and didn't even realise how precious sight is."

via Teen sees with 'kaleidoscope eyes'.

The pathogenesis of this condition is unknown, but I'm betting it is not caused by oral sex.  And speaking of which, ... (smooth segue no?)... you might want to read this to update your education about head cancer.

Human Bones Successfully Grown in Lab From Stem Cells

Figuring out a good bone replacement for limbs has proved a problem since the days of the wooden peg leg. Yet scientists have now grown two small bones based on digital images and a 3-D scaffolding, the New York Times reports.

The recent bone work comes from Columbia University, where biomedical researchers led by Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic first created their replica scaffolding based on digital images of an intact jaw bone. Such work has helped solve the problem of how to create lab-grown bones in the exact shape of the originals.

Vunjak-Novakovic's group converted the bone material scaffolding into living tissue by placing it in a similar-shaped chamber, and added human stem cells extracted from bone marrow or liposuctioned fat. The bioreactor chamber then fed oxygen, growth hormones, and nutrients to the bone.

Another team at the University of Michigan plans to recreate jaw bones within the human body itself. It will create its bone scaffolding based on a printer laser system and CT scan, and then fill the scaffolding with cells taken from the patient who requires the bone replacement. Once implanted, the scaffolding would get absorbed by the body.

Developments such as these could do away with the need for painful bone grafts or using materials such as titanium that aren't completely biocompatible with host bones. It's almost a shame, really -- wooden synthetic bones better than anything 18th-century pirates had were just making a comeback as artificial bone material substitutes.

via Human Bones Successfully Grown in Lab From Stem Cells | Popular Science.

Ancient Egyptian 'Door To Afterlife' Found

Door To AfterlifeArchaeologists have unearthed a 3,500-year-old door to the afterlife from the tomb of a high-ranking Egyptian official near Karnak temple in Luxor, the Egyptian antiquities authority said Monday.

These recessed niches found in nearly all ancient Egyptian tombs were meant to take the spirits of the dead to and from the afterworld. The nearly six-foot- tall (1.75 meters) slab of pink granite was covered with religious texts.

The door came from the tomb of User, the chief minister of Queen Hatshepsut, a powerful, long ruling 15th century B.C. queen from the New Kingdom with a famous mortuary temple near Luxor in southern Egypt.

User held the position of vizier for 20 years, also acquiring the titles of prince and mayor of the city, according to the inscriptions. He may have inherited his position from his father.

Viziers in ancient Egypt were powerful officials tasked with the day-to-day running of the kingdom's complex bureaucracy.

As a testament to his importance, User had his own tomb on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, where royal kings and queens were also buried. A chapel dedicated to him has also been discovered further south in the hills near Aswan.

The stone itself was long way from its tomb and had apparently been removed from the grave and then incorporated into the wall of a Roman-era building, more than a thousand years later.

False doors were placed in the west walls of tombs and faced offering tables where food and drink were left for the spirit of the deceased.

via Ancient Egyptian 'Door To Afterlife' Found.

An archaeological mystery in a half-ton lead coffin the ruins of a city that was once Rome's neighbor, archaeologists last summer found a 1,000-pound lead coffin.

Who or what is inside is still a mystery, said Nicola Terrenato, the University of Michigan professor of classical studies who leads the project -- the largest American dig in Italy in the past 50 years.

The sarcophagus will soon be transported to the American Academy in Rome, where engineers will use heating techniques and tiny cameras in an effort to gain insights about the contents without breaking the coffin itself.

"We're very excited about this find," Terrenato said. "Romans as a rule were not buried in coffins to begin with and when they did use coffins, they were mostly wooden. There are only a handful of other examples from Italy of lead coffins from this age -- the second, third or fourth century A.D. We know of virtually no others in this region."

This one is especially unusual because of its size.

"It's a sheet of lead folded onto itself an inch thick," he said. "A thousand pounds of metal is an enormous amount of wealth in this era. To waste so much of it in a burial is pretty unusual."

Was the deceased a soldier? A gladiator? A bishop? All are possibilities, some more remote than others, Terrenato said. Researchers will do their best to examine the bones and any "grave goods" or Christian symbols inside the container in an effort to make a determination.

"It's hard to predict what's inside, because it's the only example of its kind in the area," Terrenato said. "I'm trying to keep my hopes within reason."

Human remains encased in lead coffins tend to be well preserved, if difficult to get to. Researchers want to avoid breaking into the coffin. The amount of force necessary to break through the lead would likely damage the contents. Instead, they will first use thermography and endoscopy. Thermography involves heating the coffin by a few degrees and monitoring the thermal response. Bones and any artifacts buried with them would have different thermal responses, Terrenato said. Endoscopy involves inserting a small camera into the coffin. But how well that works depends on how much dirt has found its way into the container over the centuries.

If these approaches fail, the researchers could turn to an MRI scan -- an expensive option that would involve hauling the half-ton casket to a hospital. ...

via An archaeological mystery in a half-ton lead coffin.

Scientists found a region in brain responsible for temptation

American scientists have identified a region in the human brain which is responsible for a person's ability to resist temptation, in a research that could help explain why some people are so impulsive and often give in to their desire.

Researchers at Columbia University here have claimed that the brain area, called the left lateral prefrontal cortex, actually plays a major role in the person's ability to resist enticement of any object or service.

"The lateral prefrontal cortex really is one of the last brain structures to mature; it matures rather late during puberty and even during adolescence and into young adulthood," said lead researcher Bernd Figner.

"So this can help explain why adolescents and young adults often seem to have a hard time delaying gratification."

According to the research, when the left lateral prefrontal cortex is impaired people are more likely to choose immediate yet smaller rewards over larger rewards that won't come until later, LiveScience reported.

For their study, Figner and his team carried out a brain stimulant experiment on 52 college-going youths.

via Scientists found a region in brain responsible for temptation.

Tourists flock to 'Jesus's tomb' in Kashmir

Rozabal shrine, Srinagar A belief that Jesus survived the crucifixion and spent his remaining years in Kashmir has led to a run-down shrine in Srinagar making it firmly onto the must-visit-in India tourist trail. ...

The shrine, on a street corner, is a modest stone building with a traditional Kashmiri multi-tiered sloping roof.

A watchman led me in and encouraged me to inspect the smaller wooden chamber within, with its trellis-like, perforated screen.

Through the gaps I could see a gravestone covered with a green cloth.

When I returned to the shrine recently though, it was shut - its gate padlocked because it had attracted too many visitors.

The reason? Well, according to an eclectic combination of New Age Christians, unorthodox Muslims and fans of the Da Vinci Code, the grave contains the mortal remains of a candidate for the most important visitor of all time to India.

... Officially, the tomb is the burial site of Youza Asaph, a medieval Muslim preacher - but a growing number of people believe that it is in fact the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. ...

"It's a story spread by local shopkeepers, just because some crazy professor said it was Jesus's tomb. They thought it would be good for business. Tourists would come, after all these years of violence.

"And then it got into the Lonely Planet, and too many people started coming.

"And one foreigner…" he gave me an apologetic look, "broke off a bit from the tomb to take home with him. So that's why it's closed now." ....

The US-based Christian sect, known as the Church Universal and Triumphant, is the best-known modern supporter of the belief that Jesus lived in Kashmir, though they don't believe he died there.

And in Islam, in which Jesus is the penultimate prophet, there is also a minority tradition adopted by the controversial Ahmeddiya sect, that Rozabal does contain the grave of Jesus.

Professional historians tend to laugh out loud when you mention the notion that Jesus might have lived in Kashmir - but his tomb is now firmly on the tourist trail - and a growing number of credulous visitors believe that he was buried in the Rozabal shrine. ....

via BBC News - Tourists flock to 'Jesus's tomb' in Kashmir.

I don't think he ever died because I currently don't think he ever lived. I've found no historically valid archeological evidence of Jesus or the 12 disciples / apostles.  Plenty of stories, but no evidence. I'm currently working with the theory that most of the history we were taught is balloney, and that the Roman military wrote the gospels as a war tactic against the Jews. This is why the Jews were made in the story to have their own king crucified.  There is archaeological evidence for some of the other characters in the bible, but weaving real characters--particularly a Roman military man, Pilate, who washed his hands of the blood of Jesus--into the story would have been part of the Roman deception. There is archaeological evidence that Pilate existed.  Pilate was made to seem in the story as if the Jewish leaders used him and  compelled him to sentence Jesus to death contrary to his own will.  Here he wins a double victory. He kills the king of the Jews and it is their fault. The only thing is, none of this happened. The whole story was a war weapon, a military strength deception by Josephus after the Jewish/Roman war to keep the Jews from rising again, to tame and shame them.
Lucius Flavius Silva replaced him, and moved against the last Jewish stronghold, Masada, in the autumn of 72. He used Legio X, auxiliary troops, and thousands of Jewish prisoners, for a total of 10,000 soldiers. After his orders for surrender were rejected, Silva established several base camps and circumvallated the fortress. According to Josephus, when the Romans finally broke through the walls of this citadel in 73, they discovered that the 967 defenders had all committed suicide, preferring death over defeat. ... The defeat of the Jewish revolt altered the Jewish diaspora, as many of the Jewish rebels were scattered or sold into slavery. Josephus claims that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege, a sizeable portion of these to illnesses brought about by hunger. "A pestilential destruction upon them, and soon afterward such a famine, as destroyed them more suddenly."[5] 97,000 were captured and enslaved[5] and many others fled to areas around the Mediterranean.

The main account of the revolt comes from Josephus, the former Jewish commander of Galilee, who after capture by the Romans, attempted to end the rebellion by negotiating with the Judeans on Titus's behalf. Josephus and Titus became quite close friends and later Josephus was granted Roman citizenship and a pension. He never returned to his homeland after the fall of Jerusalem, living in Rome as an historian under the patronage of Flavius and Titus.

He wrote two works, The Jewish War (c. 79) and Jewish Antiquities (c. 94) on occasions contradictory. These are the only surviving source materials containing information on specific events occurring during the fighting. But the material has been questioned because of claims that cannot be verified by secondary sources. Only since the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls has some solid confirmation been given to the events he describes.

There is archeological evidence for Josephus. The bust above is a Roman portrait (quite an honor) said to be of Josephus[1]. As a Jew himself, Josephus would have has a special insight if he did indeed write the gospels as disinformation, or more likely, he wrote some truth and some lies to please those in authority, to gain favor and make peace for his people. Josephus was:
"... a first-century Jewish historian of priestly and royal ancestry ... Josephus was a law-observant Jew who believed in the compatibility of Judaism and Graeco-Roman thought. ... Josephus' credibility as a historian has been questioned — his works are usually dismissed as Roman propaganda."

My theory that Josephus wrote all the gospels doesn't hold up, but his work may have been used by others as a starting point. According to
The Gospel of Luke borrows heavily from material in Josephus’ (37–100 A.D.) later works [3], especially Life and Against Apion, implying that the Gospel of Luke was not composed (much less published) until after 100 A.D., since Josephus’ later works weren’t published before 95 A.D.

(More on infidels about the similarities between Luke and Josephus.) Jesus police continues:

... our survey of the early Christian art indicates that prior to the Third Century there are almost no portraits of Jesus in any medium. Had Jesus’ life been celebrated by the gospels as early as the First Century, one would have expected any explosion of artwork in the Second Century. Instead, it is only in the Third Century that we find such an explosion, suggesting that the gospels and the celebration of Jesus’ life is a Second Century phenomenon.

To summarize – Evidence from carbon dating, language analysis (e.g., use of Pilate, rabid anti-Semitism, the allusion to rumors about Mary, etc.) and citation as well as First Century non-Christian sources, show that the Gospels were written in the Second Century. Moreover, inferences from the artwork confirm this conclusion. By 160 A.D. we know, without question, that all four gospels were in circulation, and by 180 A.D. they were considered authoritative. Yet this is more than 100 years after Jesus’ [supposed] death.

Monday, March 29, 2010

William Hurt look-alike professor lands Discover cover story: The future influences the past

Tollaksen and his group, says Discover writer Zeeya Merali, are “looking into the notion that time might flow backward, allowing the future to influence the past. By extension, the universe might have a destiny that reaches back and conspires with the past to bring the present into view. On a cosmic scale, this idea could help explain how life arose in the universe against tremendous odds. On a personal scale, it may make us question whether fate is pulling us inexorably forward and whether we have free will.” The article says that because of its usefulness, the Chapman group’s work is gaining ground and acceptance from many other physicists. The number of derivative research papers in mainstream journals (Nature, Science, etc) is exploding rapidly.

And if THAT doesn’t completely blow your mind, how about this? A series of quantum experiments seems to actually confirm the notion that the future can influence results that happened before those measurements were even made. (Cue spooky music here.)

via Chapman professor lands Discover cover story « Happenings.

Well, I already knew the future influences the past. This explains my tree dream. I find this all quite comforting. There is nothing you can do other than what you are meant to do. So go do it and enjoy the ride.

Compare to William Hurt:

Amnesty urges China to disclose execution figures

GraphRights group Amnesty International has urged China to disclose the number of prisoners it executes.

In its annual report on the use of the death penalty, Amnesty said some 714 people were known to have been executed in 18 countries in 2009.

But the group said the true global figure could be much higher, as thousands of executions were thought to have been carried out in China alone.

At least 366 people were executed in Iran, 120 in Iraq and 52 in the US.

Amnesty praised Burundi and Togo for abolishing the death penalty in 2009 and said that for the first time in modern history, no-one had been executed in Europe or the former Soviet Union over the year.


Beijing says it executes fewer people now than it has in the past, but has always maintained that details of its executions are a state secret.

However, Amnesty said that "evidence from previous years and a number of current sources indicates that the figure remains in the thousands".

It said the death penalty could be applied to 68 offences in the country, including non-violent crimes, with executions carried out by lethal injection or firing squad.

Many people were sentenced based on confessions extracted under torture and having had limited access to legal counsel, it said.

"The Chinese authorities claim that fewer executions are taking place," said Amnesty's Interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone.

"If this is true, why won't they tell the world how many people the state put to death?" ...

via BBC News - Amnesty urges China to disclose execution figures.

Militia sought uprising, feds say

David Brian Stone, 45, believed to be ringleader David Brian Stone and his wife, Tina, made no secret about the fact that they were part of a militia, neighbors say. The couple frequently let visitors in military fatigues erect tents in front of their mobile home at the intersection of rural dirt roads, and the sound of gunfire was routine.

"In Michigan, I don't think it's that big of a deal to be in a militia," said Tom McDormett, a neighbor. "They would practice shooting, but that's not a big deal. People do that all the time out here."

But McDormett watched through binoculars Saturday night as police raided the Stones' home, tearing off plywood from the base of their two connected single-wide trailers to search under the floors. By Monday, the Stones were in green prison garb in a federal courthouse in Detroit, two of nine defendants facing sedition and weapons charges in connection with what Attorney General Eric Holder called an "insidious plan."

In an indictment against the nine unsealed Monday, the Justice Department said they were part of a group of apocalyptic Christian militants, led by Stone, who were plotting to kill law-enforcement officers in hopes of sparking an anti-government uprising.

The court filing said the group, which called itself the Hutaree, planned to kill an officer and then bomb the funeral caravan using improvised explosive devices based on designs used against U.S. troops by insurgents in Iraq.

The Hutaree — a word Stone apparently made up to mean Christian warriors — saw local police as "foot soldiers" for the federal government, which the group viewed as its enemy, along with other participants in what members deemed to be a "New World Order" working on behalf of the Antichrist, the indictment said.

Eight defendants were arrested over the weekend in raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, the Justice Department said. The ninth, one of Stone's two sons, surrendered Monday night, said Andrew Arena, head of the FBI's field office in Detroit.

The suspects could face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

They included the Stones' two sons — Joshua Matthew Stone, 21, who surrendered Monday night, and David Brian Stone Jr., 19. Others were Joshua Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Mich.; Michael Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich.; Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind.; Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio; and Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio.

Piatek, arrested late Saturday near the Chicago suburb of Clarendon Hills, insisted he was not the same Thomas Piatek named in the indictment. U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry ordered a hearing Wednesday in Hammond, Ind., to establish Piatek's identity.

A law-enforcement official said the plot appeared to be unconnected to recent threats against Democratic lawmakers who voted for a health-care overhaul. The group — apparently centered in Lenawee County, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit — has been meeting regularly since at least August 2008, the indictment said.

And the group's Web site suggested it was motivated by apocalyptic religious scenarios more than any fear of socialist takeovers. A rare mention of secular politics on the site is a page devoted to discussion of efforts to unite Europe, with a suggestion that former NATO Secretary General and European Union official Javier Solana might be the Antichrist.

via Nation & World | Militia sought uprising, feds say | Seattle Times Newspaper.

Onward Christian nut jobs.   Which belief is more absurd, that an anti-Christ is anything more than a fairytale, or that anyone in this country after 9/11 could have a militia without every electronic conversation by every member being fully monitored?

How immune cells 'sniff out' bacteria

Biophysicists at Yale created a method to stimulate single living cells with light and microparticles. Left side: The five particles pictured are trapped with laser tweezers and release a chemical which attracts the cell. Right side: The cell encounters a larger chemical concentration close to the particles (white-yellow region) than further away from the particles (red-black region).

Scientists are learning how our immune system senses and tracks down infection in the body by responding to chemical "scents" emitted by bacteria. Studying how immune cells manipulate their movement in response to external signals could shed light not only on how our immune system functions but also how cancer cells spread through the body and even how the brain wires itself.

Speaking at the Society for General Microbiology's spring meeting in Edinburgh, Dr Holger Kress describes a new technique pioneered by himself and Professor Eric Dufresne at Yale University in the US that uses sponge-like micro-particles to mimic bacteria.

The micro-particles slowly release a characteristic bacterial "scent" that is picked up by immune cells, causing them to actively move towards the source of the chemical in an attempt to hunt down the model microbes. These micro-particles can be trapped and manipulated three-dimensionally using 'optical tweezers' – highly focussed laser beams that are able to precisely control the movement of the particles to within a millionth of a millimetre. "By controlling the shape of the chemical signals, we were able to control the movements of immune cells and study how they respond to the signals," said Dr Kress.

The scientists found that a single chemical-releasing micro-particle was enough to encourage neutrophils (a type of immune cell) to migrate towards it. Within less than one minute's exposure to the micro-particle, the neutrophils were able to polarize the growth of their internal 'skeleton' in the direction of the chemical.

Dr Kress explained that although researchers had successfully identified the types of chemical signals that stimulate immune cells, it is still a challenge to work out the exact details of the immune cell response. "This new technique allows us to measure systematically how cells respond to various stimuli over minute gradients in time and space."

Dr Kress believes his technique could be applied across a wide range of research fields. "Cell migration along chemical gradients of this kind plays a key role in wound healing and the wiring of the brain. It is also an essential feature of many diseases – particularly metastatic cancers," he said.

via How immune cells 'sniff out' bacteria.

Some related background about neutrophil's, part of your body's defense system:
A neutrophil ingesting The neutrophil is a small cell, about 9-10 µm in diameter, and is the most abundant leukocyte in blood ... Neutrophils possess a multilobed nucleus, abundant storage granules in the cytoplasm, glycogen in the cytosol from which they derive almost all of their energy, and extremely few mitochondria. Neutrophils use fermentation rather than oxidative phosphorylation to obtain energy..

... We consider our neutrophils to be "white blood cells." However, their most important role is the defense of tissues outside of the blood. Thus, the neutrophils are faced with the problem of leaving the blood, finding their targets, and lastly, killing their targets.  Neutrophils must first contact the capillary wall periodically to determine whether the endothelium is expressing surface molecules which then promotes a more firm contact (margination) and eventual egress of the neutrophils outside the blood circulation (diapedesis).

Neutrophils then seek targets by sensing chemical gradients. As neutrophils approach the target, they release molecules which can influence the behavior of other leukocytes. They finally neutralize the target by several mechanisms.

... Mature neutrophils are capable of moving at a rate of 400 µm/h. Immature neutrophils move more slowly at 60 µm/h.

Mysterious Pac Man Shaped Temperatures on Saturn moon Mimas

This figure illustrates the unexpected and bizarre pattern of daytime temperatures found on Saturn's small inner moon Mimas (396 kilometers, or 246 miles, in diameter). The data were obtained by the composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS) on NASA's Cassini spacecraft during the spacecraft's closest-ever look at Mimas on Feb. 13, 2010.

In the annotated version, the upper left image shows the expected distribution of temperatures. The white sun symbol shows the point where the sun is directly overhead, which is at midday close to the equator. Just as on Earth, the highest temperatures (shown in yellow) were expected to occur after midday, in the early afternoon.

The upper right image in the annotated version shows the completely different pattern that Cassini actually saw. Instead of the expected smoothly varying temperatures, this side of Mimas is divided into a warm part (on the left) and a cold part (on the right) with a sharp, v-shaped boundary between them. The warm part has typical temperatures near 92 degrees Kelvin (minus 294 degrees Fahrenheit), while typical temperatures on the cold part are about 77 degrees Kelvin (minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit). The cold part is probably colder because surface materials there have a greater thermal conductivity, so the sun's energy soaks into the subsurface instead of warming the surface itself. But why conductivity should vary so dramatically across the surface of Mimas is a mystery.

The lower two panels in the annotated version compare the temperature map to Mimas' appearance in ordinary visible light at the time of the observations. The map used to create this image is a mosaic of images taken by Cassini's imaging science subsystem cameras on previous flybys of Mimas. The cold side includes the giant Herschel Crater, which is a few degrees warmer than its surroundings. It's not yet known whether Herschel is responsible in some way for the larger region of cold temperatures that surrounds it.

The green grid shows latitudes and longitudes on Mimas at 30-degree intervals.

via SwRI Press Release: 1980s video icon glows on Saturn moon.

Looks like whatever hit Mimas in the eye had a different composition and remained part of the moon.

Scientists discover world’s smallest superconductor

superconductorThis image shows the smallest superconductor, which is only .87 nanometer wide. (Image courtesy of Saw-Wai Hla and Kendal Clark, Ohio University)

Scientists have discovered the world’s smallest superconductor, a sheet of four pairs of molecules less than one nanometer wide. The Ohio University-led study, published today as an advance online publication in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, provides the first evidence that nanoscale molecular superconducting wires can be fabricated, which could be used for nanoscale electronic devices and energy applications.

“Researchers have said that it’s almost impossible to make nanoscale interconnects using metallic conductors because the resistance increases as the size of wire becomes smaller. The nanowires become so hot that they can melt and destruct. That issue, Joule heating, has been a major barrier for making nanoscale devices a reality,” said lead author Saw-Wai Hla, an associate professor of physics and astronomy with Ohio University’s Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute.


Superconducting materials have an electrical resistance of zero, and so can carry large electrical currents without power dissipation or heat generation. Superconductivity was first discovered in 1911, and until recently, was considered a macroscopic phenomenon. The current finding suggests, however, that it exists at the molecular scale, which opens up a novel route for studying this phenomenon, Hla said. Superconductors currently are used in applications ranging from supercomputers to brain imaging devices.

In the new study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Hla’s team examined synthesized molecules of a type of organic salt, (BETS)2-GaCl4, placed on a surface of silver. Using scanning tunneling spectroscopy, the scientists observed superconductivity in molecular chains of various lengths. For chains below 50 nanometers in length, superconductivity decreased as the chains became shorter. However, the researchers were still able to observe the phenomenon in chains as small as four pairs of molecules, or 3.5 nanometers in length. ...

via OHIO: Research | Scientists discover world’s smallest superconductor.

Tricky tiny Mercury easier to see in sky for a bit

This image provided by NASA Tuesday Oct. 7, 2008 shows the planet Mercury, taken on Oct. 6, 2008, at roughly 4:40 a.m. ET, when MESSENGER flew by Merc Mercury, the solar system's most elusive planet, will be easier to see for the next two weeks.

Astronomers say that Mercury and Venus will appear unusually close together between now and April 10. Because Venus is one of the brightest objects in the night sky it can be used as a pointer to find the hard-to-see Mercury.

Just look in the lower western sky about an hour after sunset. Find Venus and look down and to the right for Mercury.

They will appear closest together on April 3 and 4, but Venus is really on the other side of the sun.

Mercury is the solar system's smallest planet and it looks pink. Miami Space Transit Planetarium director Jack Horkheimer (HORK-hi-mur) calls Mercury the pinkie of the planets.

via Tricky tiny Mercury easier to see in sky for a bit - Yahoo! News.

Can Science Cheat Death? You can help.

Our progress in understanding cancer is encouraging. These, for example: shows that mutations in 1 gene cause many cancers

An important gene that normally protects the body against cancer can itself cause a variety of cancers depending on the specific mutation that damages it, according to a new study by investigators at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James).

The study examined mutations in a gene called PTEN. People who inherit a mutated copy of this gene have Cowden syndrome, a condition that carries a high risk of cancer in a number of organs, including the breast, thyroid and ovary. In addition, PTEN is frequently mutated in normal body cells leading to prostate, lung and pancreatic cancers.

Why people with Cowden syndrome develop different cancers, or cancers that are more severe in some than in others, is unknown, though the cause is often attributed to the natural genetic differences that exist between individuals.

This animal study, however, linked specific mutations in the gene to distinct kinds of cancer in organs targeted by the syndrome.

"We showed that the mutations themselves play a critical role in driving the cancers that occur in certain organs in people with Cowden syndrome," says principal investigator Gustavo Leone, associate professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at the OSUCCC-James. ...

via Study shows that mutations in 1 gene cause many cancers.

Why metastasic cells migrate

One of the most intriguing questions in cancer research is what causes metastatic tumour migration, why some tumour cells manage to migrate to other parts of the body but others cells don't. International investigation conducted by Enrique Martín Blanco, CSIC researcher at the Institute of Biology of Barcelona, located in the Barcelona Science Park, reveals that cells make use of a natural mechanism for this. It happens to be a family of proteins that trigger cell migration in normal processes such as growth or healing. Nevertheless, this mechanism had never been identified before in healthy cells. ... Martin-Blanco adds that "now we can study this mechanism in healthy cells, and we hope to discover more about the conditions that can inhibit or accelerate it." They expect not only to understand better this mechanism but also to find alternative strategies to inhibit metastasis. - ea

But why are we always so far from a cure?

I am not personally working my hardest to understand aging. I am not working to find a cure for cancer. I am not working with cellular therapy as a possible cure for heart disease. At times I think I should dedicate the rest of my life to the study of how to prolong life!  ( Yes, overpopulation is one of our biggest problems, but it is an entirely different problem.  If you make death by old age optional, the people living would be forced to make better decisions with regard to the planet and resource use. )

Medical science is a complete failure at preventing death. The death rate is still 100%. No animal (other than the immortal jelly fish, turritopsis nutricula) has ever escaped eventual death from old age. Luckily, many people are working on the problem.

I just gave SENS a $50 donation using PayPal. Not much, but every little bit helps, and the way I see it, what you donate today may save your life in a few years.

SENS Foundation was founded to develop, promote and ensure widespread access to regenerative medicine solutions to the disabilities and diseases of aging. Our focus is the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) identified by our Chief Science Officer, Dr Aubrey de Grey, and combining direct research efforts with education, affiliation and outreach programs. - sens

We have made progress. We understand aging much better now.

“Aging occurs because the complex biological molecules of which we are all composed become dysfunctional over time as the energy necessary to keep them structurally sound diminishes. Thus, our molecules must be repaired or replaced frequently by our own extensive repair systems,” Hayflick said.

“These repair systems, which are also composed of complex molecules,” he explained, “eventually suffer the same molecular dysfunction.

“The time when the balance shifts in favor of the accumulation of dysfunctional molecules is determined by natural selection — and leads to the manifestation of age changes that we recognize are characteristic of an old person or animal. It must occur after both reach reproductive maturity, otherwise the species would vanish.” - seniorjournal

It seems to me that with enough time, energy and equipment, I could figure out how to extract my own stem cells and grow new organs.  As biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey points out once we can grow replacement parts we can keep our bodies youthful for many centuries. This was from 1995:
Using a patient's own heart muscle cells as seeds for new tissue, researchers are testing a novel technique to "grow" replacement heart valves Christopher K. Breuer, a physician at Children's Hospital in Boston, says the new method for engineering heart valve tissue could offer an alternative to animal-derived or mechanical devices. "Tissue-engineered heart valves do not have many of the problems associated with today's replacement valves and may some day offer an improvement over today's state-of-the-art therapy," Breuer said last week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Calif. In the United States, physicians replace approximately 60,000 heart valves each year, mostly with plastic prostheses, infections, or rejection, Breuer says. Artificial valves last only 10 to 20 years, creating problems not only for children who have heart operations, but also for adults who need new heart valves at age 40 and may have to face a second operation at age 50 or 60. ...  To engineer the valve, a physician removes a small piece of tissue from a patient's heart, then cultures the cells in a laboratory, separating them into the three cell types found in valves: smooth muscle, endothelial, and fibroblast. Those cells are then implanted into a biodegradable material, polyglycolic acid polyglycolic acid, which surgeons already use in dissolvable sutures, Breuer says. The material serves as a scaffold, enabling the cells to form living valve tissue. After 6 weeks, the foreign material dissolves completely, leaving in its place a biological valve that resembles natural heart tissue. Breuer says that he and his colleagues are "evaluating the biomechanical properties of these structures and comparing them to native heart valve tissue." The research team estimates that many of the 2,300 patients who receive heart transplants every year could potentially benefit from this research, as could the 40,000 patients who need, but cannot get, replacement hearts, owing to a limited supply of donor organs. So far, the researchers have tested the procedure in lambs, with good results, Breuer reports. However, the valves will require more research and development before any testing can begin in humans.  - thefreelibrary

This was from Sep 2, 2007, so we should be able to grow new heart tissue from our own stem cells in a few years... if not now...
Surgeons will soon be able to literally mend a broken heart using live tissue grown from a patient's very own stem cells, top cardiologists said Monday. The whole procedure -- harvesting cells from bone marrow, growing tissue, and surgically implanting the heart muscle or valve -- could take as little as six weeks and could become routine within three-to-five years, they reported. Their findings were published in a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B in Britain. One reason heart attacks are so debilitating, even when they are not fatal, is because the human heart -- a massive muscle surrounding four valves controlling the body's blood flow -- does not regenerate. Damaged tissue stays damaged. Most problems occur with age, when the old ticker simply begins to wear out. "But the highest medical need for tissue-engineered heart valves is in the treatment of congenital heart malformation," which affects nearly one percent of all newborns, Simon Hoeurstrup, lead author of one of the studies, told AFP. Artificial heart valves currently available must be periodically replaced as children grow, leading to great suffering and higher death rates than in adults. Bio-engineered heart muscle that could be grafted onto a patient's living tissue without fear of rejection by the immune system has long been a holy grail of cardiovascular medicine. Artificial replacements "do the job and save people's lives," said celebrated heart surgeon Magdi Yacoub, who coordinated the 20-odd studies. "But they cannot match the elegant, sophisticated functions of living tissues." While durable, mechanical hardware increases the risk of bacterial infection in the heart's inner lining, as well as abnormalities in blood flow. Recipients must also take medication to prevent blood clots, boosting the chances of internal bleeding and embolisms. Cardiovascular disease, the number one killer worldwide, claimed some 17.5 million lives in 2005, according to the World Health Organisation. Many of these deaths might have been avoided by timely surgery to implant replacement valves and heart muscle.  ...  In the tissue engineering approach favored by Yacoub and Hoerstrup, the patient's own stem cells -- taken from bone marrow -- are isolated and expanded in the laboratory using standard cell culture techniques. They are then "seeded" onto a special matrix in the shape of a heart valve that is positioned in a device called a "bioreactor" that tricks the cells into growing in the right shape. Once mature, the living-tissue heart valves can be implanted in the patient. The whole process unfolds in a matter of weeks. - ap

Triangle UFO spotted over Maryland skies after star is blocked out group of Maryland star gazers were startled March 19, 2010, when they realized it was a triangle-shaped UFO that was blocking out a star, according to testimony from the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) database.

"I had a double-take and when I looked again, I saw a triangular shaped craft with four orange lights," the reporting witness stated. "Three of these four lights were located near the tips of the craft while the fourth was in the middle. I was in shock."

Witnesses to triangle-shaped UFOs typically report four orange lights, or three white lights at the tips, and an orange or red light underneath the object.

"This object wasn't hard to see or obscured by clouds, and I could CLEARLY make out the shape and lights on it."

This is the fourth UFO report for Maryland so far in March. There were three reports in February and six reports in January.

The following is the unedited and as yet uninvestigated report filed with MUFON. Please keep in mind that most UFO reports can be explained as something natural or manmade. If Maryland MUFON State Director Ron Fink investigates and reports back on this case, I will release an update.

via Triangle UFO spotted over Maryland skies after star is blocked out.

China creates world's first genetically modified cow

Chinese scientists have created the world's first genetically modified cow that can give milk rich in Omega-3 fatty acid, Xinhua reported.

"Two embryo-cloned and genetically-modified dairy cows were born June 23 last year. One of the cows has been found to have Omega-3 fatty acid level 10 times higher than a normal cow," said Li Guangpeng, head of the Biological Technology Laboratory at Inner Mongolia University.

"We did not announce the birth of the cows until now because it has taken time to check the cows' effective genetic traces," Li said.

He said it takes 14-15 months for a cow to become sexually mature, and another nine months to produce milk. The cows have been fed with normal cow feed.

Dubbed a "good fat", Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid necessary for human health. But it cannot be made by the human body. It is abundant in walnuts and cold water fish like herring, mackerel and sturgeon.

via China creates world's first genetically modified cow.

Will pesticides destroy one-third of the human diet by killing the bees?,440,293,cropBees are an important part of our environment and they are in danger. Without bee pollination, food production in the US would suffer greatly. Luckily, we have the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA site says this:
The honeybee is essential for crop production, particularly for specialty crops such as nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables.  Honeybees pollinate over 90 commercial crops, so that the plants can reproduce and provide the abundance and variety of foods we enjoy.  According to USDA, honeybees pollinate about one-third of the human diet, and pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value.

The EPA site lists four possible causes, including "pesticide poisoning through exposure to pesticides applied to crops or for in-hive insect or mite control".  They seem to me to be hiding the fact that pesticides are the main cause by saying that "potential immune-suppressing stress on bees caused by one or a combination of factors" is the most likely explanation. Yeah, pesticides would suppress bee immune systems.

Clothianidin is still used in the US, but it was banned in Germany. Are American bees stronger than German Bees? Why can they survive clothianidin which kills German bees?
In June 2008, the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (Germany) suspended the registration of eight neonicotinoid pesticide seed treatment products used in oilseed rape and sweetcorn, a few weeks after honey bee keepers in the southern state of Baden Württemberg reported a wave of honey bee deaths linked to one of the pesticides, clothianidin.[33]

EPA response here.

Azinphos-methyl ( toxic to bees for 2.5 days)  is still used in the US but has been banned in the European Union since 2006. Endosulfan ( toxic to bees for 8 hours ), and there are many more pesticides in use.

Are politics to blame?
Lax regulations expose children in the U.S. to toxic chemicals that are "setting the stage for an overwhelming wave of disease and the coming decades," testified Pesticide Action Network board member Dr. Ted Schettler to a Senate committee Wednesday. Dr. Schettler is also the science director for the Science and Environmental Health Network and a previous advisor to the National Academy of Sciences and the EPA. According to CNN, Schettler cited evidence of childhood pesticide exposures increasing the risk of Parkinsons Disease, and called for a fundamental overhaul of the national laws governing chemicals. “Compared to adults, developing children are uniquely susceptible to hazardous environmental exposures,” Schettler told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Dr. Gina Solomon, Senior Scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the committee that EPA has failed to adequately consider the effects of pesticide exposure on children. "Current regulation may be leaving potentially dangerous chemical residues on food, where they could harm infants and children," reports Solomon in her blog on the committee hearings. In testimony before the same Senate committee, an official from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), John Stephenson, told lawmakers that efforts to protect children from environmental threats "waned during the last decade." USA Today reports GAO's recent findings that the Bush-era EPA consistently failed in its duty to protect kids' health, with "top officials routinely ignor[ing] scores of recommendations by the agency's own children's health advisory committee." During the committee hearing, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was more pointed. He said efforts to protect children from environmental hazards "ground to a halt during the Bush administration" and the EPA office for children's health "withered on the vine."

Does the EPA protect the environment, or corporate interests? How much does the EPA answer to the pesticide lobby such as CropLife America (CLA)? If the answer is "both" and you have a case where the two are in conflict, which one wins?  They are still disappearing.
The best thing to help bees survive, say scientists is to try to limit habitat destructionThe decline in the US bee population, first observed in 2006, is continuing, a phenomenon that still baffles researchers and beekeepers.

Data from the US Department of Agriculture show a 29 percent drop in beehives in 2009, following a 36 percent decline in 2008 and a 32 percent fall in 2007.

This affects not only honey production but around 15 billion dollars worth of crops that depend on bees for pollination.

Scientists call the phenomenon "colony collapse disorder" that has led to the disappearance of millions of adult bees and beehives and occurred elsewhere in the world including in Europe.

Researchers have looked at viruses, parasites, insecticides, malnutrition and other environmental factors but have been unable to pinpoint a specific cause for the population decline.

The rough winter in many parts of the United States will likely accentuate the problem, says Jeff Pettis, lead researcher at Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.

Winter figures will be published in April. But preliminary estimates already indicate losses of 30 to 50 percent, said David Mendes, president of the American Beekeeping Federation.

"There are a lot of beekeepers who are in trouble" he said.

"Under normal condition you have 10 percent winter losses.. this year there are 30, 40 to 50 percent losses."

He said the phenomenon probably results from a combination of factors but that the increased use of pesticides appears to be a major cause.

"I don't put my bees in Florida because the last couple of years there has been tremendous increase in pesticide use in the orange crop to fight a disease," he said.

"It's a bacterium and the only way to control this disease is to use pesticide... a few years ago they did not use any pesticide at all."

He said that pesticide use "has changed dramatically" and has made beekeeping "more challenging." ...

via Scientists stumped as bee population declines further.

In August 2008, the National Resources Defense Council, a New York environmental advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency accusing the agency of withholding information about the risks pesticides pose to honeybees. [35] - wikipedia

It looks like there may be even more to this story. How can you know if an ingredient is toxic to bees if it is not even disclosed?  It could be that some "non-active" ingredient is actively killing the bees? Things may be changing for the better:
After 11 years of secrecy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to reverse a prior decision that allowed pesticide manufacturers to conceal the inert ingredients from their product labels. Since many of these ingredients are toxic, the agency now believes that consumers should know what ingredients are hiding in pesticide products.

As opposed to active ingredients, inert ingredients in pesticides do not kill or control pests. A typical pesticide product is composed of over 99 percent inerts while the remaining 1 percent or less are the actual active ingredients.

Prior to the EPA’s announcement, manufacturers were not required to disclose any of the inert ingredients contained in their products, even though federal law classifies many of them as hazardous. Some of these include formaldehyde, bisphenol A (BPA), toluene, sulfuric acid, styrene, and benzene, all of which are known carcinogens that are implicated in causing everything from breathing problems to sexual dysfunction. - prisonplanet

Nearly 4,000 inerts - including several hundred that are considered hazardous under other federal rules - are used in agricultural and residential pesticides.  ... Some scientists have been concerned about the toxic effects of inert ingredients. A recent study found that one, called polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, used in the popular herbicide Roundup is more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself. - envhealthnews

If pesticides are to blame, this would be good news in one sense, because it should be reversible. Stop using them and the bees would return, right?
CropLife America (CLA), a national trade association which represents virtually all the leading U.S. crop protection companies, has encountered a remarkable mosaic of twists and turns during its 75-year history. The challenges and changes which CLA has managed include a constantly evolving landscape of industry companies and products, coupled with a mind-boggling array of public policy and communications issues attendant to modern crop protection tools.

... CLA officially evolved from the Agricultural Insecticide and Fungicide (AIF) Association which was formed by the Insecticide Committee of the Agricultural Insecticides and Manufacturers Association (AIFMA) in 1933. ...

... Although the use of some major products has been severely restricted, and a few products have been withdrawn from the marketplace, the participation of ACPA in the scientific evaluations of FQPA implementation helped save innumerable crop protection products from cancellation.

... Litigation has become an increasingly valuable tool for the association. "During our most challenging days of FQPA implementation, we brought legal action against EPA to challenge certain stages of the agency's process--we ultimately resolved these issues out of court, but we got the correct end-policy result," says CLA Exec VP and General Counsel Doug Nelson. "Since then, we've turned to the courts to seek proactive solutions on a number of issues, and, of course, take strong defensive positions when our industry and/or the EPA are under attack." - thefreelibrary

CLA takes their case all the way to the Supreme Court when fighting to use pesticides:
On February 22, 2010: ... CropLife America (CLA) expressed its disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to review a recent ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. CLA had filed a cert petition asking the Supreme Court to review and reconsider the three-judge panel’s decision which struck down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation that NPDES permits are not required when applying pesticides to or near water sources. - ptech

I believe this all stems from trying to produce too much food with too little land, along with some good old fashioned corporate greed.

Man takes the plunge and proposes

Aquarium  proposal /Quirky China NewsA Chinese man took his girlfriend to visit an aquarium and then shocked her with a surprise proposal - from inside the tank.

Wang Jian, 28, had been taking diving lessons in secret from girlfriend Xie Wenzhen, 24, for two months, reports Straits News.

He told her they were going to witness a friend propose at the Fuzhou Zuohai Aquarium, in Fuzhou, Fujian province.

"Jian said we should go along to get some tips - then he left me in front of the giant water tank saying he was going to get some drinks," said Miss Xie.

"Suddenly a boy holding a bunch of flowers appeared in the water, and two other divers behind him opened a scroll, reading: "Please marry me!".

"I was totally stunned, as I realised that the man in the tank was my boyfriend. I never expected I would be taking such a leading role in the proposal. I'm so happy."

Miss Xie put her hands to Mr Wang's and then kissed him through the aquarium glass to signal her acceptance.

via Ananova - Man takes the plunge and proposes.

Volcano tsunami could sink southern Italy 'at any time''s largest undersea volcano could disintegrate and unleash a tsunami that would engulf southern Italy "at any time", a prominent volcanologist has warned.

The Marsili volcano, which is bursting with magma, has "fragile walls" that could collapse, Enzo Boschi told the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.

"It could even happen tomorrow," said Mr Boschi, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).

"Our latest research shows that the volcano is not structurally solid, its walls are fragile, the magma chamber is of sizeable dimensions," he said.

"All that tells us that the volcano is active and could begin erupting at any time."

The event would result in "a strong tsunami that could strike the coasts of Campania, Calabria and Sicily," Mr Boschi said.

The undersea Marsili, 9,800ft (3,000m) tall and located some 90 miles (150km) southwest of Naples, has not erupted since the start of recorded history.

It is 43 miles (70km) long and 19 miles (30km) wide, and its crater is some 1,476ft (450m) below the surface of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

"A rupture of the walls would let loose millions of cubic metres of material capable of generating a very powerful wave," Mr Boschi said.

"While the indications that have been collected are precise, it is impossible to make predictions. The risk is real but hard to evaluate."

via Volcano tsunami could sink southern Italy 'at any time' - Telegraph.

'Ring tone therapy' sweeping mobile phone-mad Japan

Japan is well ahead of the rest of the world in mobile phone technology: handsets that can pick up TV channels have been standard for years and in many shops payments can be made by swiping a phone over a sensor.

But the latest craze is ring tones said to be therapeutic.

Across Japan the arrival of spring is bringing out the cherry blossom but it is also making people reach for their handkerchiefs as, at this time of year, hay fever is rife.

A company called the Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory has developed what it claims is a cure.

For relief, sufferers need only wait for a call on their mobile phone. The sound is supposed to dislodge pollen if the user holds the handset up to their nose.

'Unproven but popular'

Another of the so-called therapeutic ring tones is for those trying to lose weight.

The Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory is led by Matsumi Suzuki, an expert in voiceprint technology of the kind used to authenticate tapes of Osama Bin Laden.

He was behind a device for dog-owners called Bow-lingual which, it is claimed, can interpret the meaning of barking.

But now ring tones are his speciality.

There is a range specially tailored for the needs of people with different star signs, such as one for Taurus, the bull, complete with mooing.

Index, the mobile phone content provider which markets the therapeutic ring tones, admits the technology behind them is perhaps a little unproven but insists the number of downloads suggests they may be working.

via BBC News - 'Ring tone therapy' sweeping mobile phone-mad Japan.

Abductions test management mettle

No kidding ... (right) for about $1600, you can be seized by  strangers, bundled into a car, bound and gagged, and kept in a cellar  for four hours, much like the 1997 film <i>The Game</i>  (left), which starred Michael Douglas.Thrill-seekers in France unimpressed by skydiving, rock climbing and other extreme sports are turning to designer kidnapping to test their limits.

For a £1000 ($1633) basic abduction package, participants are seized by strangers, bundled into a car, bound and gagged, and kept in a cellar for four hours.

If that sounds too tame, boat chases and helicopter escapes can be added to the tailor-made experience, and clients kept for longer periods. The maximum incarceration is 11 hours.

The website of Ultime Realite, a company in Besancon, eastern France, said: "You will go through the real sensations of violence, terror and fear of a real kidnapping – a psychological shock that you won't forget in a hurry."

Participants explain how they want to be kidnapped and, once the scenario is established, they sign a contract and liability waiver, but have no idea when or where their abductors will strike.

"We follow you for a few days. At an opportune moment, in the street or elsewhere, we kidnap you," the contract says.

Georges Cexus, 28, launched Ultime Realite in January and said it was already receiving two orders a day, mainly from top-level executives seeking an extreme alternative to bungee jumping or skydiving. Mr Cexus said nobody was physically hurt during the kidnappings. ...

The service echoes the 1997 film The Game, starring Michael Douglas, in which the protagonist is trapped in a real-life role play. But unlike the film, the client can stop the kidnap by uttering a password.

Some clients have expressed a desire to try to tackle phobias, including, in one case, being buried alive. They can also lead a manhunt, be tracked by a bounty hunter, escape in a high-speed car chase or smuggle "drugs". Other scenarios include spending a night in a morgue or attending your own funeral. ...

via Abductions test management mettle.

Gulf Stream 'is not slowing down'

Global thermohaline circulationThe Gulf Stream does not appear to be slowing down, say US scientists who have used satellites to monitor tell-tale changes in the height of the sea.

Confirming work by other scientists using different methodologies, they found dramatic short-term variability but no longer-term trend.

A slow-down - dramatised in the movie The Day After Tomorrow - is projected by some models of climate change.

The research is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.Argo float being deployed

The stream is a key process in the climate of western Europe, bringing heat northwards from the tropics and keeping countries such as the UK 4-6C warmer than they would otherwise be.

It forms part of a larger movement of water, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is itself one component of the global thermohaline system of currents.

Between 2002 and 2009, the team says, there was no trend discernible - just a lot of variability on short timescales.

The satellite record going back to 1993 did suggest a small increase in flow, although the researchers cannot be sure it is significant.

"The changes we're seeing in overturning strength are probably part of a natural cycle," said Josh Willis from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

"The slight increase in overturning since 1993 coincides with a decades-long natural pattern of Atlantic heating and cooling." ...

Driven by Hollywood, a popular image of a Gulf Stream slowdown shows a sudden catastrophic event driving snowstorms across the temperate lands of western Europe and eastern North America.

That has always been fantasy - as, said Josh Willis, is the idea that a slow-down would trigger another ice age.

"But the Atlantic overturning circulation is still an important player in today's climate," he added.

"Some have suggested cyclic changes in the overturning may be warming and cooling the whole North Atlantic over the course of several decades and affecting rainfall patterns across the US and Africa, and even the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic."

via BBC News - Gulf Stream 'is not slowing down'.

Ageing spies unable to use the internet

James Bond kept up to date with the latest gadgets but older spies have been warned they face redundancy if they fall behind with technologyHaving battled Islamic extremists, Irish Republican terrorists and Russian spies, some of the veteran intelligence officers of MI5 are encountering a foe they cannot master: information technology.The Security Service is launching an unprecedented round of redundancies to improve the overall level of computer skills among its staff.Despite an expanding budget, MI5 is laying off employees in order to hire new intelligence officers and support staff with better command of information technology and other “deployable” skills.The redundancy programme has set tongues wagging in Whitehall, with civil servants in other departments joking about a “James Bond generation” of elderly spies being put out to pasture because they can’t use the internet and don't understand the world of Twitter or Facebook.The plan was disclosed by Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5.He told a Parliamentary committee that he is concerned that his agency’s overall IT skills are not up to scratch, leading him to get rid of some employees.“I think some of the staff perhaps aren’t quite the ones that we will want for the future,” Mr Evans told the Intelligence and Security Committee.As a result, a programme of “both voluntary and compulsory redundancies” is being introduced.Whitehall officials said the MI5 redundancy programme was aimed at altering the skills profile of the organisation and increasing the number of its staff that can be deployed on active operations.Only a small proportion of the service’s staff will affected by the lay-offs, it is understood. But redundancies will be made across the organisation and not confined to specialist IT staff. MI5 currently has around 3,500 officers and is on course to have 4,100 by next year, double its size in 2001. Many of the new recruits are in their 20s and 30s attracted by high-profile advertising campaigns and – in part – the BBC drama Spooks.

via Ageing spies unable to use the internet - Telegraph.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Child Prodigy, 13, Claims UConn Age Bias

Even at 13, Colin Carlson believes he's running out of time. Colin is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, seeking a bachelor's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology and another in environmental studies. But he's been knocked off course by the university's rejection of his request to take a class that includes summer field work in South Africa. He and his mother say university officials told them he is too young for the overseas course. So he's filed an age discrimination claim with the university and U.S. Department of Education, which is investigating. "I'm losing time in my four-year plan for college," he said. "They're upsetting the framework of one of my majors." Michael Kirk, a spokesman for UConn, would not comment on Colin's case. But he said that generally, safety is the university's first concern when travel is involved. The university would not let Colin enroll, even after his mother, Jessica Offir, offered to release UConn from liability and accompany her son as a chaperone at her own expense, she and Colin said. Colin was 2 or 3 when he began reading on his own, Offir said, and was up to "Harry Potter" by the time he was 4. An only child, he has faced trouble before because of his brainpower. His kindergarten teacher would not allow him to take books with him at nap time, and he was ridiculed by other children who fired math questions at him to entertain themselves, she said. "You have no idea what kids like this experience," Offir said. Colin skipped two grades in public school and began taking psychology, history and other courses at UConn when he was 9. He graduated from Stanford University Online High School at age 11, and soon after enrolled full-time at UConn. "I'm actually like any other student," he said. "The faculty and students have better things to do than worry about a 13-year-old holding his own." Over the years, Colin, who said he is fascinated by natural ecosystems, has traveled extensively. He has gone sea kayaking off Nova Scotia and Ecuador, hiked in numerous national parks and, with his mother, has traveled across the U.S. by car. "It's important to have a very wide world view," he said. "Biology is fundamentally about the diversity of life, with a focus across the planet." - cbsnews