Thursday, March 31, 2011

Getting a grasp on memory

Yivsam Zagad - ... To reveal what occurs in the brain at the moment of insight, the initial viewing session was conducted in a functional MRI (fMRI) scanner. When the scientists looked at the fMRI results, they were surprised to find that among the areas that lit up in the scans - those known to be involved in object recognition, for instance - was the amygdala. The amygdala is more famously known as the seat of emotion in the brain. Though it has recently been found to play a role in the consolidation of certain memories, studies have implied that it does so by attaching special weight to emotion-laden events. But the images used in the experiment - hot-air balloons, dogs, people looking through binoculars, etc. - were hardly the sort to elicit an emotional response. Yet, not only was the amygdala lighting up in the fMRI, the team found that its activity was actually predictive of the subject's ability to identify the degraded image long after that moment of induced insight in which it was first recognized.

'Our results demonstrate, for the first time, that the amygdala is important for creating long-term memories - not only when the information learned is explicitly emotional, but also when there is a sudden reorganization of information in our brain, for example, involving a sudden shift in perception,' says Ludmer. 'It might somehow evaluate the event, 'deciding' whether it is significant and therefore worthy of preservation.'

via Getting a grasp on memory.

What is going on in your amygdala right now?

Ancient Tablet Found: Oldest Readable Writing in Europe

The back of a tablet.Marks on a clay tablet fragment found in Greece are the oldest known decipherable text in Europe, a new study says.

Considered "magical or mysterious" in its time, the writing survives only because a trash heap caught fire some 3,500 years ago, according to researchers.

Found in an olive grove in what's now the village of Iklaina (map), the tablet was created by a Greek-speaking Mycenaean scribe between 1450 and 1350 B.C., archaeologists say.

The Mycenaeans—made legendary in part by Homer's Iliad, which fictionalizes their war with Troy—dominated much of Greece from about 1600 B.C. to 1100 B.C. (See "Is Troy True? The Evidence Behind Movie Myth.")

So far, excavations at Iklaina have yielded evidence of an early Mycenaean palace, giant terrace walls, murals, and a surprisingly advanced drainage system, according to dig director Michael Cosmopoulos.

But the tablet, found last summer, is the biggest surprise of the multiyear project, Cosmopoulos said.

"According to what we knew, that tablet should not have been there," the University of Missouri-St. Louis archaeologist told National Geographic News.

First, Mycenaean tablets weren't thought to have been created so early, he said. Second, "until now tablets had been found only in a handful of major palaces"—including the previous record holder, which was found among palace ruins in what was the city of Mycenae.

Although the Iklaina site boasted a palace during the early Mycenaean period, by the time of the tablet, the settlement had been reduced to a satellite of the city of Pylos, seat of King Nestor, a key player in the Iliad.

"This is a rare case where archaeology meets ancient texts and Greek myths," Cosmopoulos said in a statement. ...

The markings on the tablet fragment—which is roughly 1 inch ( 2.5 centimeters) tall by 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) wide—are early examples of a writing system known as Linear B.

Used for a very ancient form of Greek, Linear B consisted of about 87 signs, each representing one syllable. ...

The Mycenaeans appear to have used Linear B to record only economic matters of interest to the ruling elite. Fittingly, the markings on the front of the Iklaina tablet appear to form a verb that relates to manufacturing, the researchers say. The back lists names alongside numbers—probably a property list.

Because these records tended to be saved for only a single fiscal year, the clay wasn't made to last ... "Those tablets were not baked, only dried in the sun and [were], therefore, very brittle. ... Basically someone back then threw the tablet in the pit and then burned their garbage," he said. "This fire hardened and preserved the tablet."

via Ancient Tablet Found: Oldest Readable Writing in Europe.

I own... one maple tree with a bee's nest in it ... one pine tree with a crane attached ... one rock ... one radio antenna....

Houston County fire station burns down

Houston County Fire Chief David Hardin surveys the wreckage after a Monday night fire destroyed the Houston County Fire DepartmentÕs station in McKinnon.A blaze late Monday night destroyed the Houston County Fire Department's station in McKinnon.

The cause of the 11 p.m. fire, which also destroyed two trucks, is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal's Office.

According to Houston County Fire Chief David Hardin, one of trucks was a 2,000-gallon tanker bought by the county for $20,000 last year, and the other was a 1972 utility vehicle that was in good working condition.

The chief said he didn't yet know if the firehouse blaze, plus fires that destroyed a vacant home and an abandoned motel in Erin during the weekend, were related to each other or to three barn fires and a trailer fire in the Erin area last week.

via Houston County fire station burns down | The Leaf Chronicle – Clarksville, Tenn., and Fort Campbell |

Forgot to change the battery in the fire alarm.

Group reports finding shipwreck in Lake Michigan

In this 2010 photo taken from video and provided ...In this 2010 photo taken from video and provided by Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates, the stern of an unnamed 60-foot, single-masted sloop, covered in zebra mussels, that may date back to the 1830s, is shown in Lake Michigan.

An organization that documents shipwrecks said it has found the wreck of a 60-foot, single-masted sloop in Lake Michigan that may date back to the 1830s while looking for remnants of a plane that crashed into the lake more than 60 years ago.

The wreck was found off southwestern Michigan in water about 250 feet deep between Saugatuck and South Haven, Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates announced this week. The discovery was made while working with author Clive Cussler and his sonar operator Ralph Wilbanks of the National Underwater & Marine Agency.

The group was searching for the remnants of Northwest Airlines Flight 2501, which crashed into the lake in 1950, killing 58 people.

"Sometimes, when you're looking for one thing, you come across another," shipwreck researcher Craig Rich told The Grand Rapids Press of the discovery.

The vessel sits upright and is in relatively good condition, Holland-based Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates said. The sloop's construction and design are consistent with ships built in the 1820s and 1830s. Video of the wreck is expected to be shown April 16 at a social event in Holland.

"It's fascinating stuff," Cussler, who has worked with Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates to locate other wrecks, told the newspaper. "It's not the Titanic or anything like that. But it is rather historic just for the era in which it sank."

The ship likely was moving goods across the lake when it went down, Rich said, and it could be the oldest shipwreck discovered by Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates. Rich said the group hopes to identify the ship by the summer and begin researching its story. And the group plans to explore the wreck this year.

"If we can put a name to it, we'll figure out what the story is and, if not, it'll be a mystery wreck," he said.

via Group reports finding shipwreck in Lake Michigan - Yahoo! News.

Here is some video of the Doty, a wooden steamship that went down 60 years later in a Lake Michigan storm (1898).

Caped intruder stabs cocker spaniels in Marple Bridge

Two cocker spaniels have been treated for stab wounds after they were attacked by a caped intruder in Stockport.

The pets' owner discovered the masked man who had a bin liner tied around his shoulders stabbing the pets as she walked into her lounge.

She had stepped outside for a cigarette when the man and an accomplice struck at 2240 BST on Sunday.

Police condemned the cruelty at the cottage on Holly Vale, Marple Bridge.

'Not vicious'

Officers believe that the man, who ran off empty-handed, may have used a screwdriver on the animals who suffered minor injuries.

They have described the incident as a burglary - and said they do not believe it was a grudge attack or that the family were known to the raiders.

Det Con Dave Moran said: "Understandably, the woman was very upset to have her beloved pets attacked in this way.

"These are small family pets and not vicious guard dogs that posed any threat to the intruder."

The men were both described as white and wearing black balaclavas with eye slits and black bin liners tied around their shoulders.

via BBC News - Caped intruder stabs cocker spaniels in Marple Bridge.

I don't know about the actual dogs that were attacked, but these two I found seem to have some kind of alien laser vision... spooky.

Sex change chicken Gertie becomes Bertie

Sex swap ... Jeanette Howard was stunned after hen Gertie turned into a BertieA SEX change chicken which began life as an egg-laying hen has turned into a crowing cock.

Stunned owner Jeanette Howard, 79, couldn't believe her eyes or ears when one-year-old Gertie sprouted a distinctive red comb and chin wattle — and started crowing at dawn.

Now she plans to re-name Gertie, Bertie.

Mrs Howard said she first noticed something was up with Gertie when she started to walk differently from her other two hens, Daisy and Gracie.

She has since been reassured by vets that the hen is fine — but that damage to her ovaries could have caused Gertie to develop male characteristics.

Experts say sex changes can affect one in 10,000 animals.

Mrs Howard said: "I bought three chickens a year ago and they were all laying eggs for me until the end of the year.

"They began to moult over the winter and I wasnt taking a lot of notice. Then one day I heard this crowing noise and I thought 'Where's that coming from?'

"I looked into the garden at Gertie and I saw it was coming from her or him."

Mrs Howard, of Needingworth, near Huntingdon, Cambs, said Gertie had suddenly developed a scarlet comb, chin wattle and long tail feathers, which are all male characteristics.

She said: "It had started cock-a-doodle-do-ing and had grown bits all over its face.

"He had really grown and was strutting around with his head up in the air, so proud of himself. ...

Delia Richter, from Cromwell Vets in Huntingdon, said damage to the hen's single ovary or a growth upon it could cause it to exhibit male characteristics.

Miss Richter said: "It would still be a hen but the ovary on the left side degenerates and the right side begins to release testosterone. It's possible that's what happened in this case." ...

via Sex change chicken Gertie becomes Bertie | The Sun |News.

Some fathers in the area will reportedly be bringing their sons around to Mrs. Howard to help them "man up".

Catacomb of secret tunnels packed with mummified remains of EIGHT MILLION dogs is excavated in Egypt

Egyptologist Hendrikje Nouwens examines a dog buried in a special wall niche - the remains of the wooden coffin can be seen. Many of the dogs would have been offered to the gods when they were just hours old A labyrinth of sacred tunnels packed with the mummified remains of millions of dogs has been excavated under the Egyptian desert.

The catacombs are estimated to contain the remains up to eight million dogs, many of which would have been offered to the gods when they were just hours old.

Others would have been treated as living representatives of the dog or jackal-headed god Anubis and would have lived out their lives in the nearby temple before being preserved and laid to rest in the network of tunnels.

The fascinating details come from Cardiff University scientists, who along with Egyptian colleagues are the first to examine the structure and contents of the complex underground network built 2,500 years ago under the Saqqara desert.

The catacomb, which lies ten to 12metres underground, consists of a long central corridor and a series of smaller passages that branch off it.

Sampling of small areas and bone examination of their contents suggest that the entire network is home to eight million dogs, as well as a handful of cats and jackals.

Some of the dogs were killed and mummified just days or even hours after birth.

With the need to mummify so many animals, perhaps thousands per year, it is likely the animals were bred in puppy farms dotted around the ancient capital of Memphis.

Pilgrims, who were not necessarily particularly well-off, bought the dogs, then paid for them to be mummified, in the hope of currying favour with the canine-headed god, Anubis.

As one of the most important gods of the dead, Anubis was particularly worth pleasing.

Dr Paul Nicholson, of Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, said: ‘These animals were not strictly “sacrificial”.

‘Rather, the dedication of an animal mummy was regarded as a pious act, with the animal acting as an intermediary between the donor and the gods.’

The excavation, which was funded by National Geographic, also revealed that some dogs were interred individually, in niches in the tunnel walls. ...

via Catacomb of secret tunnels packed with mummified remains of EIGHT MILLION dogs is excavated in Egypt | Mail Online.

Bizarre! Do you realize that there is absolutely no picture or mention of Zahi Hawass in this story?!?

375-Pound Shark Leaps Into Texas Fisherman's Boat

It's the catch of a lifetime, but it's not clear whether a Texas fisherman landed an 8-foot shark or it landed him.

Twenty-nine-year-old Jason Kresse of Freeport says he and two crew members were dumping fish guts in the Gulf of Mexico about 3:45 a.m. Monday when they heard splashes in the distance and then something hit the side of their 25-foot boat.A shark in an apparent rush to feed had jumped into the back and was thrashing around. Kresse says the crew couldn't get close to the 375-pound fish to toss it back in the water.

It died several hours later.

The shark is on display at a seafood business in Freeport, about 55 miles south of Houston. Kresse says he plans to have it mounted.

via 375-Pound Shark Leaps Into Texas Fisherman's Boat.

Retired Air Force Major Predicts UFO Sightings at Royal Wedding

Prince William and Kate MiddletonThe upcoming royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton is expected to be viewed by more than a billion people worldwide -- and possibly a few extraterrestrials, according to at least one former military officer.

George Filer, a retired Air Force major, runs the National UFO Center and says it's common to see UFOs around important events.

"The craft seem to have an interest in anything important," Filer told AOL News. "They've been sighted recently over Libya and near the Japanese tsunami."Filer says his center averages more than 1,000 sightings a month, and he expects to get a few UFO reports from the area surrounding Westminster Abbey, the site of the April 29 wedding.

There are two reasons behind Filer's prediction: In the last few weeks, he's been getting reports from British Royal Air Force pilots who reported seeing UFOs over the English Channel, and, more importantly, he says the royal family is very interested in the UFO phenomenon.

Filer knows this personally because he once had a conversation about UFOs with William's grandfather, Prince Philip."It was around 1961 or '62, when I was a navigator in a tanker," Filer said. "He met with a group of us after a dinner because he wanted to talk about UFOs. He told us that the RAF had stopped sending fighters after UFOs because some of them didn't come back.

"They decided to send tankers, which were nearly as fast as the fighters but could hold 15 hours of fuel, compared to two for the fighters."

Filer says the prince also revealed that his interest in UFOs was more than just concerns of national security -- it was personal."I asked him why he was so interested in UFOs and he explained that his uncle, the Earl Mountbatten, had seen them up close," Filer said.

Even though the meeting took place during the Cold War, Filer discounts the underlying possibility that the UFOs seen during the period were actually Soviet craft.

"That was always a possibility, but it seemed unlikely since these craft were bigger than expected -- it's like an aircraft carrier in space," he said. "However, the Soviets did try to penetrate the airspace of the United Kingdom and the United States quite regularly." ...

via Retired Air Force Major Predicts UFO Sightings at Royal Wedding.

Older and stronger: Progressive resistance training can build muscle, increase strength as we age

Despite being 74 years old, Japanese weightlifter Tsutomu Tosuka shows us you're never to old to be a bodybuilder anywhere in the world.

Getting older doesn't mean giving up muscle strength.

Not only can adults fight the battle of strength and muscle loss that comes with age, but the Golden Years can be a time to get stronger, say experts at the University of Michigan Health System.

"Resistance exercise is a great way to increase lean muscle tissue and strength capacity so that people can function more readily in daily life," says Mark Peterson, Ph.D., a research fellow in the U-M Physical Activity and Exercise Intervention Research Laboratory, at the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Through resistance training adults can improve their ability to stand up out of a chair walk across the floor, climb a flight of stairs -- anything that requires manipulating their own body mass through a full range of motions.

Normally, adults who are sedentary beyond age 50 can expect muscle loss of up to 0.4 pounds a year.

"That only worsens as people age. But even earlier in adulthood - the 30s, 40s and 50s - you can begin to see declines if you do not engage in any strengthening activities," Peterson says.

"Our analyses of current research show that the most important factor in somebody's function is their strength capacity. No matter what age an individual is, they can experience significant strength improvement with progressive resistance exercise even into the eighth and ninth decades of life," he says.

Progressive resistance training means that the amount of weight used, and the frequency and duration of training sessions is altered over time to accommodate an individual's improvements. ...

As resistance training progresses and weights and machines are introduced, Peterson recommends incorporating full body exercises and exercises that use more than one joint and muscle group at a time, such as the leg press, chest press, and rows. These are safer and more effective in building muscle mass.

"You should also keep in mind the need for increased resistance and intensity of your training to continue building muscle mass and strength," he says.

A good fitness professional can help plan an appropriate training regimen, and make adjustments based on how you respond as you progress.

"We firmly believe based on this research that progressive resistance training should be encouraged among healthy older adults to help minimize the loss of muscle mass and strength as they age," Peterson says. ...

via Older and stronger: Progressive resistance training can build muscle, increase strength as we age.

US cancer death rates in decline

Anne Doerr - A report from the nation's leading cancer organizations shows rates of death in the United States from all cancers for men and women continued to decline between 2003 and 2007. The findings come from the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer.

The report also finds that the overall rate of new cancer diagnoses for men and women combined decreased an average of slightly less than 1 percent per year for the same period. Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD, president of Dana-Farber Cancer in Institute in Boston, called the news encouraging, but cautions we still have a very long way to go in our fight against cancer.

"Overall, the rate of cancer deaths is falling, but not by a lot, not nearly enough," said Benz. "But considering that the incidence of cancer continues to increase, while the number of deaths is flat or falling a little bit, it does suggest that efforts of prevention, early detection, and better treatments are having a positive impact."

The report is co-authored by researchers from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Cancer Society. It will be posted on the web site of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on March 31, and will be published in the journal's May 14 print issue.

The authors emphasized the need to focus further on reducing the cancer burden in the population as a whole through prevention, detection and treatment of cancer.

"One of the best ways to avoid dying of cancer is to prevent it in the first place," added Dr. Benz. "This involves making lifestyle adjustments, such as not smoking, being careful about exposure to the sun, diet and exercise, and being careful about exposure to chemicals in the workplace. Patients also need to be sure to participate with their primary care physician in the kinds of screening that can pick up cancers very early." ...

via US cancer death rates in decline, national report finds.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Samsung installs keylogger on its laptops

In the fall of 2005, the security and computer world was abuzz with what was at the time dubbed as the "Sony BMG rootkit Fiasco." Sony BMG used a rootkit, computer program that performs a specific function and hides its files from the regular user, to monitor computer user behavior and limit how music CDs were copied and played on one's computer. ...

Sony BMG settled the federal lawsuit with the FTC without admitting guilt. However, given the number of CDs it was ordered to replace and the agreed upon compensation of up to $150 per computer owner it had to pay to consumers whose computers may have been damaged as a result of attempts to remove the rootkit, the $575 million payout for the incident was far more expensive than any return on investment Sony BMG may have received by preventing the potential consumer from copying, illegal distribution or sharing of the music CDs.

Some in the computer security industry had hoped that the criminality of the act that Sony BMG had engaged in together with the huge business costs associated with the settling of the case with consumers and federal authorities would act as a deterrent to any company which might want to monitor computer usage. Others, including Mark Russinovich, the developer and blogger who first discovered the rootkit, were not so sure. In fact Mr. Russinovich warned that "Consumers don't have any kind of assurance that other companies are not going to do the same kind of thing (as Sony)" (Borland, 2005).

How right has Mr. Russinovich been!

While setting up a new Samsung computer laptop with model number R525 in early February 2011, I came across an issue that mirrored what Sony BMG did six years ago.  After the initial set up of the laptop, I installed licensed commercial security software and then ran a full system scan before installing any other software. The scan found two instances of a commercial keylogger called StarLogger installed on the brand new laptop. Files associated with the keylogger were found in a c:\windows\SL directory.

According to a Starlogger description, StarLogger records every keystroke made on your computer on every window, even on password protected boxes.

This key logger is completely undetectable and starts up whenever your computer starts up. See everything being typed: emails, messages, documents, web pages, usernames, passwords, and more. StarLogger can email its results at specified intervals to any email address undetected so you don't even have to be at the computer your[sic] are monitoring to get the information. The screen capture images can also be attached automatically to the emails as well as automatically deleted.

After an in-depth analysis of the laptop, my conclusion was that this software was installed by the manufacturer, Samsung. I removed the keylogger software, cleaned up the laptop, and continued using the computer. However, after experiencing problems with the video display driver, I returned that laptop to the store where I bought it and bought a higher Samsung model (R540) from another store.

Again, after the initial set up of the laptop, I found the same StarLogger software in the c:\windows\SL folder of the new laptop. The findings are false-positive proof since I have used the tool that discovered it for six years now and I am yet to see it misidentify an item throughout the years. The fact that on both models the same files were found in the same location supported the suspicion that the hardware manufacturer, Samsung, must know about this software on its brand-new laptops. ...

via Samsung installs keylogger on its laptop computers.

Military Expert: The World Could Never Survive a Real 'Battle: Los Angeles'

Ret. Army Col. John Alexander...A giant spaceship from another world arrives during the day and positions itself above the White House in Washington, while more ships do the same over other major cities around the world.

Then, without warning, all hell breaks loose, and the ships begin using devastating weapons and power to destroy everything around them -- people, buildings, military resistance.

This continues for about two hours of popcorn-eating enjoyment until the Earthlings on screen somehow come up with a miracle to stop these unwelcome invaders from laying waste to our beloved planet.

From "The War of the Worlds," "Independence Day," "Mars Attacks!" "Transformers," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "V" and the current box office favorite, "Battle: Los Angeles," alien invasion is most definitely part of our culture -- and maybe our fears.But, in the real world, if predatory ETs come to Earth to take us over, for whatever their reasons, could we, in fact, prevent it from happening? Could we actually survive such an attack?

"The bottom line for a hostile engagement between aliens and humans is not a pretty picture, and there is no happy ending for us," according to John Alexander, a retired Army colonel who spent 25 years searching top levels of the U.S. government for evidence of a reported UFO cover-up -- and couldn't find one.

From a military point of view, Alexander, author of "UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies and Realities" (Thomas Dunne Books), says entertainment depicting alien invasions of Earth is pretty much just a vehicle to blow stuff up.

"If they chose to use physical force, they would simply destroy our infrastructure, power, communications, transportation and economic systems. While a terribly blunt approach, it could be accomplished without any danger to the aliens, or direct confrontation with any military system."

As long as we're offering a sober, logical, strategic scenario in which unfriendly extraterrestrials want to take over our home turf with the least amount of destruction possible, Alexander speculates there's a much easier way to do it. "If depopulation of Earth is an objective, the simplest way to accomplish that would be to introduce one or more biological organisms that kill humans.

"There is no reason for them to engage in the time-consuming effort to physically eliminate the armed forces of Earth. Biological warfare would be the most efficacious, energy-efficient and safest means for them to conquer Earth. For the aliens, this is a no-risk option." ...

via Military Expert: The World Could Never Survive a Real 'Battle: Los Angeles'.

This Military Expert knows something even bigger that he's not telling us. Look closely... he is smiling, but he isn't. If you stare at him, even at his picture, you'll get hypnotized and you may start to have visions.  If that happens, don't be alarmed. Just go with it and try to remember what you see. The earth is counting on you.

Noisy cat hits purr-fect pitch in world record bid

Smokey the catA cat from Northamptonshire has made an official attempt to become the world's loudest purrer.

Smokey made the record attempt in front of four independent witnesses at her owner Ruth Adams' home in Northampton.

Smokey was tested by a music expert from Northampton College who found her purr reached 73 decibels - 16 times louder than the average cat.

The evidence will now be submitted to the Guinness Book of Records for verification.

Mrs Adams said: "Guinness has very strict criteria and the college has been very helpful in supplying the specialist recording equipment needed to measure Smokey's purr and for arranging the official witnesses.

via BBC News - Noisy cat hits purr-fect pitch in world record bid.

Virus-eating virus identified in Antarctic lake

Deep within the waters of Antarctica's Organic Lake an Australian research team, led by microbiologist Ricardo Cavicchioli from the University of New South Wales, have discovered a new virophage, or virus eater. Their findings were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

The new virophage was discovered by graduate student Sheree Yau and given the name Organic Lake Virophage, or OLV. The new virophage was identified when she noticed that sequences in the protein shell from the lake were similar to a previously discovered virophage named Sputnik.

Sputnik, which was first discovered in the water-cooling tower in Paris in 2008, was the first virophage ever identified. Earlier this month, Matthias Fischer and Curtis Suttle announced the discovery of a second virophage known as Mavirus.

The discovery of OLV makes this only the third virophage, though there is evidence of sequence matches to OLV in numerous other locations including the nearby Ace Lake. However, the other matches span the globe, including a lagoon in the Galapagos Islands, a bay in New Jersey, and a freshwater lake in Panama.

Virophages, which are known as virus eaters, attack other viruses, as is the case with the first virophage, Sputnik. Unable to multiply within a host, virophages rely on hosts infected with other viruses. In the case of Sputnik, it was an amoeba infected with a mamavirus. Sputnik would essentially take over the replication process of the mamavirus. Because of this takeover, the mamavirus is unable to produce properly, thus reducing its ability to infect the amoeba.

The new OLV genome was discovered within the sequences of phycodnaviruses. Phycodnaviruses are a group of large viruses that attack algae. The OLV targets these phycodnaviruses, allowing the algae in the lake to survive and bloom during the summer months. ...

via Virus-eating virus identified in Antarctic lake.

Has Black Hole wiped out all alien life?

A phenomenon known as a white dwarf hypernova could have sucked alien life into a black hole.

Scientists have been long baffled how despite years of searching there has been no evidence of life beyond our planet.

But now some astronomers believe the answer may lie in the destructive force of exploding stars - and claim ET (extraterrestrial) may simply have been wiped out.

Hypernovas are essentially massive supernovas, or giant exploding stars, with a mass of between 100 and 300 times that of the sun.

And because this process, when an exceptionally large white dwarf star, a collapsed remnant of an elderly star, becomes unstable and explodes, has occurred several times over millions of years, it is possible that life may have wiped out more than once, the Daily Mail reports.

Scientists also believe there is a possibility that life on earth too could be wiped out by the process of gamma ray bursts. Intense gamma radiation produces nitrous oxides that could perhaps destroy the ozone layer.

They call the lack of evidence of alien life the 'Great Silence'. ...

via Has Black Hole wiped out all alien life?.

Broken Heart Burns Like Hot Coffee, Brain Study of Former Lovers Shows

Elizabeth Lopatto - Heartache over lost love is similar to the physical pain of spilling hot coffee on your lap, scientists studying brain scans say.

The sting of seeing photos of an ex-lover stimulated the same parts of the brain as intense heat applied to the arms of 40 people in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research builds on a 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Science that showed people who took the painkiller acetaminophen, sold by Johnson & Johnson as Tylenol, felt less rejected when excluded from a ball-passing game. While rejection and physical pain aren’t identical, they are more similar than anyone had realized, said Edward Smith, a psychology professor at Columbia University in New York and an author of today’s study.

“There may be something special about rejection,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “No other negative emotion, not anger and not fear, elicits reactions in the pain matrix of the brain.”

The brain scans showed involvement of the secondary somatosensory cortex, which processes types of sensations including light touch, pain, pressure and temperature. Also activated in both rejection and physical pain was the dorsal posterior insula, which senses temperature.

Participants were shown photographs of a former partner who dumped them and of a friend who was the same sex as their former partner. Then heat was applied to elicit a burning feeling on their left arms and, in a separate application, a warm stimulation. Patients rated how they felt after each trial on a distress scale, and underwent fMRI brain scans. The warmth and the friend served as controls.

“Spilling a hot cup of coffee on yourself and thinking about how rejected you feel when you look at the picture of a person that you recently experienced an unwanted breakup with may seem to elicit very different types of pain,” said Ethan Kross, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan and the article’s lead author, in a statement. “But this research shows that they may be even more similar than initially thought.”

via Broken Heart Burns Like Hot Coffee, Brain Study of Former Lovers Shows - Bloomberg.

The secret sex life of the Amoeba

Image: Ameoba, caught in the act

After taking a second look at the tree of life, researchers are rethinking the asexuality of amoebas, considered the epitome of chastity. They now have evidence of amoeboid sex lives, suggesting the act didn't evolve, it has always been there.

Amoebas are blob-like creatures about a billion years old ­— the oldest members of the domain of life called the eukaryotes. This group is fundamentally different in appearance and various other features from the two other domains of life. Amoeba species are spread throughout this tree on every branch, interspersed with familiar lineages like animals and plants. They are known for how they move, slowly extending foot-like portions of their cell membranes.

"It changes how we interpret the evolution of organisms," study researcher Daniel Lahr, of the University of Massachusetts, told LiveScience. "If the last common ancestor of eukaryotes was sexual, then there is in practice no evolution of sex."

By taking a sweeping look at what we know about them by searching through the scientific literature, the researchers say those amoebas are more sexually active than we think.

"When discussing the sex of amoeboid protists, the existing evidence does not evoke chastity but rather Kama Sutra," Lahr writes in the paper, published in the March 23 issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.  ...

Amoeba sex might have been missed because when grown in the lab, many of them don't show any signs of engaging in sex — they have the ability to reproduce themselves by cloning, or copying themselves, indefinitely. And when they did show signs of sex, researchers may have mistaken it for a rare exception to the no-sex rule. ...

via Amoebas: Sexier than anyone knew - Technology & science - Science - LiveScience -

Doctor jailed for removing organs while using lemon juice antiseptic

Photo: DPAA doctor who used lemon juice to disinfect his patients’ operation wounds and removed healthy organs was sentenced to four years in a minimum security facility followed by a four-year ban on practising medicine, a Mönchengladbach court said Monday.In one of the more notorious medical scandals in recent years, the court pronounced the 54-year-old owner and head doctor of a private clinic guilty guilty on two counts of negligent homicide and 21 counts of bodily harm.

Arnold Pier, who confessed to his crimes after one-and-a-half years at trial, “removed organs that should not have been removed,” head Judge Lothar Beckers said.

He surgically removed appendixes, a gallbladder and a kidney without medical cause or permission from patients, the court said. In another case a woman died because he broke off treatment, while another was subjected to unnecessary chemotherapy.

Another incident involved a man who had accidentally sawed his thumbs off. Instead of immediately sending the patient to a specialist, Pier simply sewed his thumbs back on, an action an expert described for the court as “waiting on a wonder.”

The thumbs rotted and had to be amputated.

“How he imagined he could simply sew the thumbs back on is hard to grasp,” Beckers said.

A total of four patients did not survive his treatment, which the court said was akin to “flying blind.”

In 2006 Pier purchased the bankrupt Antonius Klinik in Wegberg for €25,000 with the intention of restructuring operations there. But Pier did not know his limits and overestimated his abilities, the court said, assuring victims and their families that chances he would ever practice medicine again were slim.

via Doctor jailed for removing organs while using lemon juice antiseptic - The Local.

Doctor jailed for removing organs while using lemon juice antiseptic - The Local

  1. Photo: DPAA doctor who used lemon juice to disinfect his patients’ operation wounds and removed healthy organs was sentenced to four years in a minimum security facility followed by a four-year ban on practising medicine, a Mönchengladbach court said Monday.In one of the more notorious medical scandals in recent years, the court pronounced the 54-year-old owner and head doctor of a private clinic guilty guilty on two counts of negligent homicide and 21 counts of bodily harm.

Arnold Pier, who confessed to his crimes after one-and-a-half years at trial, “removed organs that should not have been removed,” head Judge Lothar Beckers said.

He surgically removed appendixes, a gallbladder and a kidney without medical cause or permission from patients, the court said. In another case a woman died because he broke off treatment, while another was subjected to unnecessary chemotherapy.

Another incident involved a man who had accidentally sawed his thumbs off. Instead of immediately sending the patient to a specialist, Pier simply sewed his thumbs back on, an action an expert described for the court as “waiting on a wonder.”

The thumbs rotted and had to be amputated.

“How he imagined he could simply sew the thumbs back on is hard to grasp,” Beckers said.

A total of four patients did not survive his treatment, which the court said was akin to “flying blind.”

In 2006 Pier purchased the bankrupt Antonius Klinik in Wegberg for €25,000 with the intention of restructuring operations there. But Pier did not know his limits and overestimated his abilities, the court said, assuring victims and their families that chances he would ever practice medicine again were slim.

via Doctor jailed for removing organs while using lemon juice antiseptic - The Local.

Girl finds boa constrictor in toilet

Photo: Hannover PolizeiA seven-year-old girl was shocked to find a sizeable boa constrictor staring up at her from the toilet over the weekend, police in Hannover said. The “fugitive” reptile escaped before authorities could capture it.The girl discovered the snake in the toilet bowl when she lifted the lid on Saturday evening at her family’s apartment in the Linden-Süd district, spokesman Holger Hilgenberg said in a statement.

She informed her 39-year-old mother, who called police immediately, they said.

Officers photographed the reptile and consulted with animal rescue services at the fire department.

“But before the animal could be retrieved, it disappeared into the drain pipe, and a ‘search’ was fruitless,” Hilgenberg said.

According to the local veterinary school the snake was a boa constrictor, a non-venomous genus that poses no danger to humans.

“The reptile probably escaped from a terrarium.” Hilgenberg said, adding that the owner was still unknown.

via Girl finds boa constrictor in toilet - The Local.

Look before you sit.

Forger shows up in court with phony doctor note

A California woman facing nearly five years in prison for forging drug prescriptions showed up for sentencing with a phony doctor's note seeking a delay in the proceedings.

Michelle Elaine Astumian was free on $45,000 bail and pleaded no contest in January to felony counts of forgery and using a fraudulent check.

The 41-year-old woman arrived Monday for sentencing in a San Luis Obispo County courtroom and presented a note with a doctor's signature asking for a postponement.

Prosecutor Dave Pomeroy called the doctor, who said the note is a forgery.

The judge immediately ordered Astumian into custody and she collapsed to the floor. An ambulance took her to a hospital.

Pomeroy told the San Luis Obispo County Tribune that Astumian will be sentenced later, but he doesn't know when.

via Forger shows up in court with phony doctor note.

Jordan battles to regain 'priceless' Christian relics

Book found in Jordan

Detail from the Jordanian relicThey could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born.

A group of 70 or so "books", each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007.

A flash flood had exposed two niches inside the cave, one of them marked with a menorah or candlestick, the ancient Jewish religious symbol.

A Jordanian Bedouin opened these plugs, and what he found inside might constitute extremely rare relics of early Christianity.

That is certainly the view of the Jordanian government, which claims they were smuggled into Israel by another Bedouin. ...

The books, or "codices", were apparently cast in lead, before being bound by lead rings.

Their leaves - which are mostly about the size of a credit card - contain text in Ancient Hebrew, most of which is in code.

If the relics are of early Christian origin rather than Jewish, then they are of huge significance.

One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.

He says they could be "the major discovery of Christian history", adding: "It's a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church."

He believes the most telling evidence for an early Christian origin lies in the images decorating the covers of the books and some of the pages of those which have so far been opened.
Book found in Jordan

Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God. ...

tests by metallurgists on the badly corroded lead suggest that the books were not made recently.

The archaeology of early Christianity is particularly sparse.

Little is known of the movement after Jesus' crucifixion until the letters of Paul several decades later, and they illuminate the westward spread of Christianity outside the Jewish world.

Never has there been a discovery of relics on this scale from the early Christian movement, in its homeland and so early in its history.

via BBC News - Jordan battles to regain 'priceless' Christian relics.

Harry Coover, creator of Super Glue, dies aged 94

Harry Coover, creator of Super Glue in 2010The creator of Super Glue, Harry Coover, has died in Tennessee, aged 94.

Dr Coover, who died on Saturday, discovered the well-known adhesive by accident, while working for Eastman Kodak, his grandson Adam Paul said.

An assistant at the company noticed that two new refractometer prisms were glued firmly together by the substance.

Dr Coover and a colleague first realised the potential of the glue in 1951, according to the Super Glue Corporation website.

Cyanoacrylate, the chemical name for this glue, was actually discovered some years earlier.

During World War II researchers were looking for materials to make clear plastic gun sights. The website said researchers dismissed it for that purpose because it stuck to everything.

President Barack Obama awarded Dr Coover the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2010.

Dr Coover became vice-president of the chemical division for development at Eastman Kodak, where the team he worked with achieved more than 460 patents. He gained a place on the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Ohio in 2004.

Dr Coover was born in Newark, Delaware, and gained a degree in chemistry from Hobart College in New York and a PhD from Cornell University.

via BBC News - Harry Coover, creator of Super Glue, dies aged 94.

Thanks for all the things you've helped fix over the years Mr. Coover, including Ella-Grace Honeyman's brain.


Teens warned of risks from 'vodka tampon' use

Police in the Baden-Württemburg city of Tuttlingen responded Tuesday to growing online chatter among teenagers that they could become intoxicated using the vodka tampons without having alcohol on their breath.

This is not true, police said, denying that it was an effective way to get drunk. They also warned girls that the alcohol could damage vaginal walls and increase the risk of infection. Boys have reportedly also been using tampons anally.

“I believe this is very dangerous,” head of a children’s clinic in Singen told southern German paper Südkurier last week. “For us this is a new thing.”

In early March a 14-year-old girl collapsed during a street festival in Konstanz, apparently highly intoxicated from using a vodka tampon, the paper reported.

Youth researchers have since found out that this form of alcohol abuse is trendy in the region.

But teens who believe they can hide the smell of alcohol consumption are wrong, experts told the paper.

The development shows a new dimension for alcohol abuse among teens, county social worker Axel Goßner told the Südkurier.

“Alcohol is no longer a stimulant, but a means to an end,” he said.

The trend arose among teens in the United States, where it is known as “slimming.” But it has reportedly caught on in Scandinavia and other places where alcohol is difficult for young people to acquire.

Some Facebook groups are even devoted to exchanging tips on the topic, complete with how-to videos and instructions. ...

via Teens warned of risks from 'vodka tampon' use - The Local.

You still get the brain damage this way. Save some time and money and just hit yourself repeatedly in the head with a rock.
People who have been drinking large amounts of alcohol for long periods of time run the risk of developing serious and persistent changes in the brain. Damage may be a result of the direct effects of alcohol on the brain or may result indirectly, from a poor general health status or from severe liver disease. - nih

Some evidence suggests that low to moderate alcohol consumption may speed up brain volume loss. -link

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Imaging the paintings under the paintings of the Old Masters

Gaze upon Rembrandt's The Night Watch, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, or one of the great Dutch master's famous self-portraits. Contemplate Caravaggio's Boy with a Basket of Fruit, Supper at Emmaus, or the famed Italian artist's Seven Works of Mercy. Admire Peter Paul Rubens' Prometheus Bound, Portrait of Władysław IV, or the Flemish baroque painter's The Exchange of Princesses.

Speaking at the 241st National meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, an international team of scientists today described use of a new technique to see the paintings under the paintings of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Rubens, and other 17th Century Old Master painters. The report by scientists in Belgium, The Netherlands and the United States was among almost two dozen studies presented as part of a symposium on chemistry and art titled "Partnerships and New Analytical Methodologies at the Interface of Chemistry and Art."

"The underpainting was the first and most important step in creating a work of art," explained lead scientist Matthias Alfeld, who is with the University of Antwerp in Belgium. "It was the sketch that guided the artist through the creative process. The Old Masters generally used to roughly indicate light, shade and contours. Observation of the underpainting would allow us to see the first execution of the artist's vision of the painting. It's a more detailed look over the shoulder of the artist at work. But the underpainting has virtually escaped all imaging efforts. So far, our methods to visualize the underpainting, except in localized cross sections, have been very limited."

Alfeld and colleagues described use of a powerful new technique called scanning macro X-ray fluorescence analysis that allows more detailed imaging of the composition of underpaintings. It is portable enough for use on-the-scene in museums and does not harm priceless artwork. The technology already has provided new insights into the nature of the paint that some Old Masters used in their underpainting.

An analysis of paintings from the workshops of Rembrandt and Caravaggio, for instance, led them to the conclusion that the Old Masters were more frugal than fussy about the paint used for the underpainting. The analysis suggested that this brown pigment mixture in underpaintings actually consisted of recycled leftovers from the artist scraping his palette clean.

"Using the new technique, we hope to disperse doubts about the authenticity of several paintings or to confirm that these paintings were not by the painter they have been attributed to," Alfeld said. "It is nice to show that the world of art can intersect with chemistry. Chemistry is such an all-encompassing science. Imagine, chemistry isn't just about molecules and reactions, but it also involves also the study of something as beautiful as great works of art." ...

via Imaging the paintings under the paintings of the Old Masters.

Cancer turns out to be a p53 protein aggregation disease

Protein aggregation, generally associated with Alzheimer’s and mad cow disease, turns out to play a significant role in cancer. In a paper published in Nature Chemical Biology, Frederic Rousseau and Joost Schymkowitz of VIB, K.U.Leuven and Vrije Universiteit Brussel describe that certain mutations of p53, an important tumor suppressor, cause the protein to misfold in a way that the proteins start to aggregate. This not only disrupts the protective function of normal p53, but of other related proteins as well.

p53 plays a central role in protection against cancer

In the study, the focus was on the p53 protein which plays a key role in protecting the body against cancer. If p53 works normally, it controls cell division. If p53 control ceases - e.g. when there is a mutation in the protein - the cells start to divide in an uncontrolled manner and this may result in a tumor. Mutations in p53 are observed in about half of cancer cases, making the protein an important target in the development of new cancer therapies.

Mutated p53 aggregates

“We have revealed a new mechanism for the action of mutant p53,” Joost Schymkowitz and Frederic Rousseau of VIB, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and K.U. Leuven say. “Mutations in p53 cause the protein to lose its protective function. The proteins change in shape, hook into each other and begin to aggregate. The active p53 disappears from the cell and can no longer carry out its control function properly." The mechanism has been encountered in about one third of p53 mutations.

Complete switch of character

Moreover, the mutations cause p53 to assume a completely different character. From being a protective factor, the mutated p53 changes into a substance which in fact speeds up tumor growth. It seems to form aggregates with control substances (p63 and p73) in the cell, causing them to lose their function as well. ...

via Cancer turns out to be a p53 protein aggregation disease.

Stanford researchers use river water and salty ocean water to generate electricity


Stanford researchers have developed a battery that takes advantage of the difference in salinity between freshwater and seawater to produce electricity.

Anywhere freshwater enters the sea, such as river mouths or estuaries, could be potential sites for a power plant using such a battery, said Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science and engineering, who led the research team.

The theoretical limiting factor, he said, is the amount of freshwater available. "We actually have an infinite amount of ocean water; unfortunately we don't have an infinite amount of freshwater," he said.

As an indicator of the battery's potential for producing power, Cui's team calculated that if all the world's rivers were put to use, their batteries could supply about 2 terawatts of electricity annually – that's roughly 13 percent of the world's current energy consumption.


The battery itself is simple, consisting of two electrodes – one positive, one negative – immersed in a liquid containing electrically charged particles, or ions. In water, the ions are sodium and chlorine, the components of ordinary table salt.

Initially, the battery is filled with freshwater and a small electric current is applied to charge it up. The freshwater is then drained and replaced with seawater. Because seawater is salty, containing 60 to 100 times more ions than freshwater, it increases the electrical potential, or voltage, between the two electrodes. That makes it possible to reap far more electricity than the amount used to charge the battery.

"The voltage really depends on the concentration of the sodium and chlorine ions you have," Cui said. "If you charge at low voltage in freshwater, then discharge at high voltage in sea water, that means you gain energy. You get more energy than you put in."


Once the discharge is complete, the seawater is drained and replaced with freshwater and the cycle can begin again. "The key thing here is that you need to exchange the electrolyte, the liquid in the battery," Cui said. He is lead author of a study published in the journal Nano Letters earlier this month.

In their lab experiments, Cui's team used seawater they collected from the Pacific Ocean off the California coast and freshwater from Donner Lake, high in the Sierra Nevada. They achieved 74 percent efficiency in converting the potential energy in the battery to electrical current, but Cui thinks with simple modifications, the battery could be 85 percent efficient.

To enhance efficiency, the positive electrode of the battery is made from nanorods of manganese dioxide. That increases the surface area available for interaction with the sodium ions by roughly 100 times compared with other materials. The nanorods make it possible for the sodium ions to move in and out of the electrode with ease, speeding up the process.


Other researchers have used the salinity contrast between freshwater and seawater to produce electricity, but those processes typically require ions to move through a membrane to generate current. Cui said those membranes tend to be fragile, which is a drawback. Those methods also typically make use of only one type of ion, while his battery uses both the sodium and chlorine ions to generate power.

Cui's team had the potential environmental impact of their battery in mind when they designed it. They chose manganese dioxide for the positive electrode in part because it is environmentally benign.


The group knows that river mouths and estuaries, while logical sites for their power plants, are environmentally sensitive areas.

"You would want to pick a site some distance away, miles away, from any critical habitat," Cui said. "We don't need to disturb the whole system, we just need to route some of the river water through our system before it reaches the ocean. We are just borrowing and returning it," he said.

The process itself should have little environmental impact. The discharge water would be a mixture of fresh and seawater, released into an area where the two waters are already mixing, at the natural temperature. ...

via Stanford researchers use river water and salty ocean water to generate electricity.

Women's body image based more on others' opinions than their own weight

Tracy Tylka - Women's appreciation of their bodies is only indirectly connected to their body mass index (BMI), a common health measure of weight relative to height, according to recent research.

The most powerful influence on women's appreciation of their bodies is how they believe important others view them, the study suggests. On the flip side, the more women are able to focus on the inner workings of their body – or how their bodies function and feel – rather than how they appear to others, the more they will appreciate their own bodies.

And the more a woman appreciates her body, the more likely she is to eat intuitively – responding to physical feelings of hunger and fullness rather than emotions or the mere presence of food.

"Women who focus more on how their bodies function and less on how they appear to others are going to have a healthier, more positive body image and a tendency to eat according to their bodies' needs rather than according to what society dictates," said Tracy Tylka, associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University and senior author of the study.

Other studies have suggested that about 50 percent of women appreciate their bodies. This work is geared toward examining how they arrive at their satisfaction with their bodies, and how they avoid any pitfalls that might interfere with their positive thinking.

Ultimately, the researchers say, it boils down to respect. If women are going to treat their bodies well – through nourishment, health screenings and exercise, for example – they first have to like their bodies.

"And it turns out we look to whether others accept our bodies to determine whether we appreciate them ourselves," Tylka said. "It's not our weight, but instead whether others in our social network appreciate us. That implies that people should be convinced to be less judgmental and to focus less on weight."

Tylka performed the research with former Ohio State doctoral student Casey Augustus-Horvath, who is now at the Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital in Tulsa, Okla. The study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology.

via Women's body image based more on others' opinions than their own weight.

Jesse Ventura reveals location of secret underground 2012 base?

YouTube - Jesse Ventura - Secret Underground 2012 Base at Denver Airport.

Indiana prosecutor told Wisconsin governor to stage ‘false flag’ operation

An Indiana prosecutor and Republican activist has resigned after emails show he suggested Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stage a fake attack on himself to discredit unions protesting his budget repair bill.

The Republican governor signed a bill on March 11 that eliminates most union rights for public employees.

In an email from February 19, Indiana deputy prosecutor Carlos F. Lam told Walker the situation presented "a good opportunity for what’s called a ‘false flag’ operation."

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism discovered the email among tens of thousands released to the public last week following a lawsuit by the Isthmus and the Associated Press.

"If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions' cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions," Lam said in his email.

"Currently, the media is painting the union protest as a democratic uprising and failing to mention the role of the DNC and umbrella union organizations in the protest," he continued. "Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions."

Lam resigned from his position after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism published an article about his email. ...

via Indiana prosecutor told Wisconsin governor to stage ‘false flag’ operation | The Raw Story.

Do politicians stage fake attacks for profit? Yes. There are many examples.

'Spiderman' Alain Robert scales Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Alain Robert climbs the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, 28 March    Robert appeared not to use his harness

Alain Robert, the French urban climber dubbed spiderman for his feats, has scaled the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

It took him six hours to ascend the 828-m (2,717-ft) tower in the United Arab Emirates city, including the tapered spire above the top floors.

A large crowd watched from the ground as he moved up the facade, picked out by spotlights after darkness fell.

Unusually, he used a rope and harness, to comply with safety requirements.

"I know that sometimes there may be some specific requirements," he told Reuters news agency before the climb.

"I do understand. You know, this is such an iconic building so I can understand that even though they are taking care so much about my precious life, they are also taking care a lot of that precious Burj Khalifa."...

Strapped to a safety harness tethered more than 100 floors up, he began his climb up the silvery, glass-covered tower just after 1800 (1400 GMT) on Monday.

Moving methodically and swiftly along the metal facade, he ascended a central column, largely avoiding rows of pipes that could have slowed his climb.

On reaching the top, he waved triumphantly.

Robert, 48, has scaled more than 70 skyscrapers, including New York's Empire State Building and Chicago's Willis Tower in the US, and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, according to his website.

In 2004, he climbed Taiwan's Taipei 101, the world's tallest building at the time.

via BBC News - 'Spiderman' Alain Robert scales Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

"Zombie" Fire Ants Controlled, Killed by Flies

In South America, female phorid flies have developed a bizarre reproductive strategy: They hover over fire ants ... then inject their eggs into the ants with a needle-like appendage. The egg grows and the resulting larva generally migrates to the ant's head. The larva lives there for weeks--slurping up the brain and turning the ant into a "zombie," in some cases compelling the ant to march 55 yards 50 meters away from its colony to avoid attack by other fire ants. Finally, the baby fly decapitates its host and hatches, exiting through the ant's head...

"U.S. scientists regularly release several species of phorid flies to control alien fire ants, which have spread across the southern U.S. during the past half century and outcompeted many native ant species.  Now scientists have released a new species of phorid, Pseudacteon obtusus not pictured, for the first time in the U.S., Texas A&M University announced May 11.Released in southern Texas in 2008 and eastern Texas in April 2009, P. obtusus is the first phorid released in the U.S. that is known to attack ants as they forage. In theory, feeding ants are more vulnerable to attack than those hunkering down in hidden nests.The flies—which don't have a taste for native U.S. ants—also drive the frightened fire ants into their nests, freeing up more food for the indigenous ants.It's about "leveling the playing field for native ants. We're trying to restore the balance," said Rob Plowes, a research associate at the University of Texas. Published May 14, 2009

via Pictures: "Zombie" Ants Controlled, Decapitated by Flies.

Phoridae is a family of small, hump-backed flies resembling fruit flies. Phorid flies can often be identified by their escape habit of running rapidly across a surface rather than taking to the wing. This behaviour is a source of one of their alternate names: scuttle fly. They are a diverse and successful group of insects. Approximately 4,000 species are known in 230 genera. - wiki

When Does a Nuclear Disaster End? who think Japan's Fukushima disaster is today's headlines and tomorrow's history need to take a good look at the Chernobyl disaster, which to this day is a continuing threat to the people of Ukraine. It will be hundreds of years before the area around the destroyed reactor is inhabitable again and there are disputes over whether or not Chernobyl's nuclear fuel still poses a threat of causing another explosion. There is also a teetering reactor core cover and the deteriorating sarcophagus itself that may collapse and send plumes of radioactive dust in all directions.

via Activist Post: When Does a Nuclear Disaster End? Never..

Real estate: It's time to buy again

... Of course, home prices are low and home construction is weak for a reason: incredibly low demand. For our scenario to play out, America will need a decent economy, with job creation and consumer confidence continuing to claw their way back to normal.

One big fear is that today's tight credit standards will chill the market. But we're really returning to the standards that prevailed before the craze, and those requirements didn't stop prices and homebuilding from rising in a good economy. "The credit standards are now at about historical levels, excluding the bubble period," says Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics. "We saw prices rising with fundamentals in those periods, and it will happen again."

To see why, let's examine the remarkable shift in home affordability. A new study by Deutsche Bank measures affordability in two ways: first, the share of income Americans are paying to own a home. And second, the cost of owning vs. renting. On the first metric, the analysis finds that homeowners now pay just 9.8% of their income in after-tax mortgage, tax, and insurance payments. That's down from 17.2% at the bubble's peak in 2007, and by far the lowest number in the Deutsche Bank database, going back to 1999. The second measure, the cost of owning compared with renting, should also inspire potential buyers. In 28 out of 54 major markets, it's now cheaper to pay a mortgage and other major costs than to rent the same house. What's most compelling is that in all of the distressed markets, owning now wins by a wide margin -- a stunning reversal from four years ago. It now costs 34% less than renting in Atlanta. In Miami the average rent is now $1,031 a month, vs. the $856 it costs to carry a ranch house or stucco cottage as an owner. ...

via Real estate: It's time to buy again - Fortune Finance.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How to rob me of $10 right now!

I just discovered that you can download my entire CD -- Xenophilia, Cafe of Love, from 2001 -- free on your iPhone.

Go to the App store and get the free app called "MOG".


Use the free 7 day trial then search for "Xenophilia" and tap the arrows to download all my songs to your iPhone.

Listen for free for a week, then you have to pay to keep listening.

I do not believe that I get a cent from people using the free version of this app to listen to my music.

I also do not think I get paid when people are paying $10/month to keep using the app after the trial.

Do not buy my CD on my web site, because you can get the whole thing, the Cafe of Love, at a price all iPhone users will love: FREE.

If nothing else, check out my song "Crop Circles", still one of my favorite weird songs.

Similar Artists feature

Hey neat, there is a feature to find similar artists on the MOG radio. The similar artist software found: "Wild Pack of Family Dogs" by Modest Mouse. Hmm. Nah. I like my stuff better.

But wait, "Big Dipper" by Built to Spill is great. And I really like "Cha Cha Cha" by The Little One's. Oh, and I love "Last Song" by Matt Pond, beautiful!

Okay, this is a freakin' cool app.

But it ain't right.

A website that sold Beatles songs online for 25 cents apiece before they became legally available has agreed to pay record companies nearly $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit.U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton Tucker signed off on the settlement between and music companies EMI Group PLC, Capitol Records and Virgin Records America on Friday. The judge ruled in December that the site violated the music labels' copyrights and presented unfair competition.

A trial to determine how much BlueBeat owed the companies was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Santa Ana, Calif.

BlueBeat streamed and sold music by the Fab Four and other top-name acts, including Coldplay and Lily Allen, for several days before music companies sued to shut it down in November 2009. By then, the site had already distributed more than 67,000 songs by The Beatles. - cnbc

Oh wow, I found a song I sang on with Anton Barbeau. I think that's me singing on "Please Sir I've Got A Wooden Leg" ... and at least one other song on Anton's "A Splendid Tray".

Ha, oh yeah, check out "a Robot Tells Jokes" by Doug Powell. Reminds me of good times with the comedy show.

I'm falling asleep to Bill Ives version of the Beatles song Michelle. Nicely done vocal jazz.

Then Nora Jones' "Don't Know Why" pops up and I re-live Maui and the time I almost got married. And I see clearly for a heartbeat or two that I'm a fool hiding from the sick and wicked world, and missing, in my suit of armor, the ability to touch my dream ... I drift asleep... and the iPhone I'm writing this on slips from my fingers and floats to the floor in slow motion.

Radiation from Japan detected in Cleveland

A researcher at Case Western Reserve University has detected tiny amounts of Iodine 131 from Japan in rainwater collected from the roof of a campus building.

Gerald Matisoff, professor of geology, said the presence of the isotope presents no danger to human health. He estimated the level of radiation is about one-tenth that of natural background radiation.

"In theory, the Iodine 131 could have come from any radioactive waste processing facility," Matisoff said. "But, we know it's from Japan. The isotope is being seen worldwide."

Matisoff and graduate student Mary Carson collect water on the roof of the A.W. Smith Building, on the campus quad, to monitor the particulates being carried in rain into Lake Erie.

Carson ran the analysis Friday and Matisoff verified the findings today.

via Radiation from Japan detected in Cleveland.

Some bad news:
At 1:45,  the newscaster states that a crane collapsed onto the fuel rods.   This is MOX fuel, meaning they damaged rods that contained plutonium.

Update: Confirmed:
Plutonium found in soil at the Fukushima nuclear complex heightened alarm on Tuesday over Japan's battle to contain the world's worst atomic crisis in 25 years, as pressure mounted on the prime minister to widen an evacuation zone around the plant. ...

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said plutonium was found at low-risk levels in five places at the facility, which was crippled by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

A by-product of atomic reactions and also used in nuclear bombs, plutonium is highly carcinogenic and one of the most dangerous substances on the planet, experts say.

They believe some of the plutonium may have come from spent fuel rods at Fukushima or damage to reactor No. 3, the only one to use plutonium in its fuel mix. ... - reuters