Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for May 4th, 2009

Can We Reverse Aging By Changing How We Think?

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2009

Nostalgia may be more useful than anyone suspected.

http://i.ehow.com/images/GlobalPhoto/Articles/4514890/aging-main_Full.jpgImagine that you could rewind the clock 20 years. It’s 1989. Madonna is topping the pop charts, and TV sets are tuned to “Cheers” and “Murphy Brown.” Widespread Internet use is just a pipe dream, and Sugar Ray Leonard and Joe Montana are on recent covers of Sports Illustrated.

But most important, you’re 20 years younger. How do you feel? Well, if you’re at all like the subjects in a provocative experiment by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, you actually feel as if your body clock has been turned back two decades. Langer did a study like this with a group of elderly men some years ago, retrofitting an isolated old New England hotel so that every visible sign said it was 20 years earlier. The men—in their late 70s and early 80s—were told not to reminisce about the past, but to actually act as if they had traveled back in time. The idea was to see if changing the men’s mindset about their own age might lead to actual changes in health and fitness.

Langer’s findings were stunning: After just one week, the men in the experimental group (compared with controls of the same age) had more joint flexibility, increased dexterity and less arthritis in their hands. Their mental acuity had risen measurably, and they had improved gait and posture. Outsiders who were shown the men’s photographs judged them to be significantly younger than the controls. In other words, the aging process had in some measure been reversed.

via Can We Reverse Aging By Changing How We Think? | Newsweek Voices – Wray Herbert | Newsweek.com.

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

Discovery News : Discovery Channel : Egypt Uncovers ‘Missing’ Pyramid

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2009

Missing PyramidEgyptian archaeologists have uncovered the “missing pyramid” of a pharaoh and a ceremonial procession road where high priests carried mummified remains of sacred bulls, Egypt’s antiquities chief said Thursday.

Zahi Hawass said the pyramid — of which only the base remains — is believed to be that of King Menkauhor, an obscure pharaoh who ruled for only eight years more than 4,000 years ago.

In 1842, German archaeologist Karl Richard Lepsius mentioned Menkauhor’s pyramid among his finds at Saqqara, calling it the “Headless Pyramid” because its top was missing, Hawass said.

But the desert sands covered Lepsius’ discovery, and no archaeologist since was able to find it.

“We have filled the gap of the missing pyramid,” Hawass told reporters on a tour of the discoveries at Saqqara, the necropolis and burial site of the rulers of ancient Memphis, the capital of Egypt’s Old Kingdom, south of Cairo.

Only the pyramid’s base — or the superstructure as archaeologists call it — was found after a 25-foot-high mound of sand was removed over the past year and a half by Hawass’ team.

The base was in a 15 foot-deep pit dug out by workers, with heaps of huge rocks marking its entrance and walls. A burial chamber also was discovered.

Hawass said the style of the pyramid and of a gray granite sarcophagus lid found in the burial chamber indicates the pyramid was from the Fifth Dynasty, a period that began in 2,465 B.C. and ended in 2,325 B.C.

via Discovery News : Discovery Channel : Egypt Uncovers ‘Missing’ Pyramid.

Posted in Archaeology | Leave a Comment »

New Survey Suggests Modern Humans Originated in Southwest Africa

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2009

Locations for the Garden of Eden have been offered many times before, but seldom in the somewhat inhospitable borderland where Angola and Namibia meet.

A new genetic survey of people in Africa, the largest of its kind, suggests, however, that the region in southwest Africa seems, on the present evidence, to be the origin of modern humans. The authors have also identified some 14 ancestral populations.

The new data goes far toward equalizing the genetic picture of the world, given that most genetic information has come from European and Asian populations. But because it comes from Africa, the continent on which the human lineage evolved, it also sheds light on the origins of human life.

“I think this is an enormously impressive piece of work,” said Alison Brooks, a specialist on African anthropology at George Washington University.

The origin of a species is generally taken to be the place where its individuals show the greatest genetic diversity. For humans, when the new African data is combined with DNA information from the rest of the world, this spot lies on the coast of southwest Africa near the Kalahari Desert, the research team, led by Sarah A. Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, said in this week’s issue of Science.

via New Survey Suggests Modern Humans Originated in Southwest Africa – NYTimes.com.

Posted in Archaeology, Biology | Leave a Comment »

Laser quest: The scientist with a planet-saving plan straight out of Spider-Man

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2009

Source material: Dr Brian MacGowan is leading the drive towards everlasting, clean energy Clean energy forever. That, in a glorious theoretical nutshell, is what nuclear fusion – the reaction that gives stars and hydrogen bombs their immense power – could deliver. The urgency of the climate-change debate and the renewed impetus to tackle the 21st century’s glaring energy problems have put fusion back on the agenda… and, thanks to key contributions from the British-trained scientist Dr Brian MacGowan, the highly volatile process may be harnessed to provide us with a viable source of green electricity sooner than previously expected.

Staff at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in central California are confident that some time in 2010, they will create a fusion reaction by focusing 192 intense ultra-violet lasers on to a tiny golden pellet, recreating the energy of the sun for a fraction of a second, thereby paving the way to a carbon-neutral future without global warming or nuclear waste. If all goes to plan, the implications would fairly reflect California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent description of the project as “monumental”. Fusion, we’re told, could be mankind’s salvation – but what are the chances of translating theory into practice?

…The accuracy of MacGowan’s lasers, according to NIF’s brochure, “can be compared to standing on the pitcher’s mound at AT&T Park in San Francisco and throwing a strike at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, some 350 miles away”. Elsewhere, I’m told to digest the idea that a dollar bill (or a paperclip) contains the energy of one nuclear explosion, and I’m also asked to imagine the pressure of 10 aircraft carriers on my thumb…

So, will Inertial Confinement Fusion really work? “When we do our first ignition shot [in 2010] we’ll be very confident we’ll succeed,” says MacGowan. “We have a series of about 100 experiments to do before then, which will establish that we’ve adjusted the laser and the target, and the design of the target, sufficiently well to have a high confidence of ignition…. MacGowan believes NIF’s major contribution to fusion energy will be demonstrating the fact that it works, and – all being well – he expects a “prototype energy production capability” to follow by 2020.

via Laser quest: The scientist with a planet-saving plan straight out of Spider-Man – Green Living, Environment – The Independent.

Posted in Alt Energy | Leave a Comment »

Elise Tan Roberts, 2, becomes youngest member of Mensa

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2009

Child GeniusA two-year-old girl has become the youngest member of Mensa, the society strictly for geniuses.

With intelligence far beyond her years, Elise Tan Roberts can name 35 capital cities and identify the three types of triangle. Her IQ is 156 – higher than Carol Vorderman’s, the maths expert and former Countdown host. The average IQ in the population at large is 100.

The toddler, from Edmonton in North London, can already spell her name aloud, read the words “mummy” and “daddy” and recite the alphabet. Mensa accepts the top two per cent of the population based on IQ and normally only tests children over 10 years old, but the society made an exception and welcomed Elise based on a standard intelligence measure.

The child is in the top 0.2 per cent for her age, according to Professor Joan Freeman, the child psychologist who used the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale to test Elise. John Stevenage, head of Mensa, said he was always delighted to welcome a new member.

“Elise’s parents correctly identified that she is an exceptional child. They now realise they have an interesting challenge on their hands as she grows up.

“We wish them well and look forward to seeing Elise develop in the coming years.”

Elise’s mother Louise, 28, said she realised her daughter was different as soon as she was born.

She took “an unusual” interest in her surroundings, uttered her first word aged just five months and took her first steps at eight-and-a-half months. The little girl was born in London in December 2006 and has heritage in England, Malaysia, China, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

via Video: Elise Tan Roberts, 2, becomes youngest member of Mensa – Times Online.

Fiona Phillips thinks this identification is a bad idea.

Posted in Mind | 1 Comment »

They know what you’re thinking: brain scanning makes progress

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2009

a brainIf Adam Wilson had had a sense of making history he might have chosen his words more carefully. “Go Badgers,” he wrote, in a message posted on the Twitter website last month.

The phrase, a rallying call for his university’s sports team, seemed entirely unremarkable – until the research scientist revealed in a second message just how he had sent it.

“Spelling with my brain,” he wrote 20 minutes later. Wilson had become the first person to post electronic messages just by thinking about them.

Wilson was not, of course, working unaided. Sitting snugly on his head in a lab at the University of Wisconsin was a device that looked a little like a bobble hat but was actually a miniaturised brain scanner. Inside each bobble a sophisticated package of miniaturised electronics was picking up the tiny electrical fields generated by the workings of his brain.

After a little practice Wilson had found he could use it to pick out letters from an alphabet on a screen, write an electronic message and send it. The process took just a few minutes. “If only I’d known I’d get this much attention I’d have said something more profound,” he said last week.

Wilson’s aim was indeed important, designed to create a system that would allow those with “locked-in” syndrome – people who can no longer speak because of strokes or other brain conditions – to start communicating again.

What he also did was to shine a light on some of the remarkable developments in brain science.

The power of his scanner to peer through the skull and detect the tiny electrical fields generated by currents in the cells beneath is just one of a multitude of breakthroughs.

Last month alone, other researchers announced they had used a different scanning technique to reconstruct simple images being shown to their subjects. In effect, their minds were being read.

In the past few months scientists have used the same technology to watch the formation of emotions ranging from love and lust to anger and disgust. They have also watched decisions being made, measured academic ability, spotted the mental signature of psychopathy and seen the hitherto invisible advance signs of devastating diseases such as Alzheimer’s. …

via They know what you’re thinking: brain scanning makes progress – Times Online.

Posted in Music, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Memo: 9/11 Commission Witnesses Were Intimidated By Government “Minders”

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2009

Memo: 9/11 Commission Witnesses Were Intimidated By Government Minders 290409CommissionSomewhat lost within the flu pandemic media hype this week is an important new revelation concerning the cover up of the events of 9/11.

A recently uncovered 9/11 Commission memo dating from October 2003, half way through the panel’s investigation, addresses concerns that government “minders” were intimidating witnesses and shaping their testimonies.

The document was drafted by Kevin Scheid, a senior staffer who led the commission’s Team 2, which was responsible for reviewing the overarching structure of the US intelligence community.

Names also appearing on the memo are those of staffers Lorry Fenner, an air force intelligence officer, and lawyer Gordon Lederman.

The memo, entitled “Executive Branch Minders’ Intimidation of Witnesses,” states the following:

* Minders “answer[ed] questions directed at witnesses;”

* Minders acted as “monitors, reporting to their respective agencies on Commission staffs lines of inquiry and witnesses’ verbatim responses.” The staff thought this “conveys to witnesses that their superiors will review their statements and may engage in retribution;”

* Minders’ notetaking “facilitates agencies in alerting future witnesses to the Commission’s lines of inquiry and permits agencies to prepare future witnesses either explicitly or implicitly.”

* Minders “positioned themselves physically and have conducted themselves in a manner that we believe intimidates witnesses from giving full and candid responses to our questions.”

The staffers make it clear that intimidation by minders was widespread and had not only occurred with their team’s witnesses.

The memo was discovered by an independent researcher in the National Archives, to which it was added earlier this year.

via Memo: 9/11 Commission Witnesses Were Intimidated By Government “Minders”.

Posted in Politics | Leave a Comment »

Who Created God?

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2009

The early Hebrews were polytheists. They worshiped many powers, with Baal (Baalzebub) and Astaroth (Astarte, Ishtar) as their major male/female deity. Baal-zebub and Astaroth were effectively demonized, as you may have read in the Bible.

But not before Baal and his “hieros gamos” Astarte were praised by Hebrews from Samaria to Judah, even after the Babylonian captivity of 605 BCE.

Eventually, Baal was renamed YHWH Elohim, with Asherah remaining as his consort. This is why Genesis sometimes uses the divine plural “We.”

When the Hebrews first settled in Canaan, the local gods and goddesses’ powers and titles were absorbed by the Hebrew’s god Baal, who was renamed YHWH Elohim or simply El. The Bible lists numerous YHWH-Elohim titles, such as El Shaddai, El Ohim, El HaNe’eman, El Yisrael, El HaShamayim, El De’ot, El El-yon and dozens of others, all of which were originally Canaanite titles. In the Canaanite and Hebrew religion, El became the supreme god, Son of God , Father of Mankind, and loving companion of Asherah.

This is well attested by the clay tablets which date from 1300 to 1200 BCE. The tablets were discovered by archaeologists in the ruined library of Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra, Syria).

Baal(im), is Canaanite for “Lord” or “Master”, and together with Baal-zebub or Beelzebub (“Baal The Prince”) they became major Semitic deities. Baal, Son of El, (sometimes married to his sister Anat) was an agricultural deity, responsible for sex, fertility and propitiating the sun (Shamash). When Baal was murdered and dismembered by the god Mot, Baal’s sister/wife Anat killed and dismembered Mot (the Egyptian Isis, Osiris & Set) in revenge. Somehow, this magically resurrected Baal, who was “reborn” from the parts of his own dismembered body.

Baal was eventually dropped as a distinct god in a polytheistic pantheon and even as an honorific title for the Hebrew supreme god. The Tanach/Old Testament tells of YHWH-El informing his people of his desire for exclusivity:

“On that day”, said Adonai, “you will call me ishi (My Husband) you will no longer call me Ba’ali (The Baal, the god). For I will remove the names of the ba’alim (plural for the Baal, the gods) from her mouth; they will never again be mentioned by name.” [Hosea 2:16-17]

In this way the Hebrew priests prevented potential rivals to their “jealous god” YHWH by dismissing the title Baal and denying the consort Astheroth altogether. They were no longer “Baals” or gods. They were pronounced “heathen” idols of wood and stone. YHWH inherited their powers.

via Who Created God? – Auburn Journal.

Posted in Religion | 1 Comment »

Could the net become self-aware?

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2009

The internet's network structure is similar to that of the human brain (Image: ImageSource / Getty)Could the net become self-aware? Yes, if we play our cards right – or wrong, depending on your perspective.

In engineering terms, it is easy to see qualitative similarities between the human brain and the internet’s complex network of nodes, as they both hold, process, recall and transmit information. “The internet behaves a fair bit like a mind,” says Ben Goertzel, chair of the Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute, an organisation inevitably based in cyberspace. “It might already have a degree of consciousness”.

Not that it will necessarily have the same kind of consciousness as humans: it is unlikely to be wondering who it is, for instance. To Francis Heylighen, who studies consciousness and artificial intelligence at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) in Belgium, consciousness is merely a system of mechanisms for making information processing more efficient by adding a level of control over which of the brain’s processes get the most resources. “Adding consciousness is more a matter of fine-tuning and increasing control… than a jump to a wholly different level,” Heylighen says.

How might this manifest itself? Heylighen speculates that it might turn the internet into a self-aware network that constantly strives to become better at what it does, reorganising itself and filling gaps in its own knowledge and abilities.

If it is not already semiconscious, we could do various things to help wake it up, such as requiring the net to monitor its own knowledge gaps and do something about them. It shouldn’t be something to fear, says Goertzel: “The outlook for humanity is probably better in the case that an emergent, coherent and purposeful internet mind develops.”

via Unknown internet 2: Could the net become self-aware? – tech – 30 April 2009 – New Scientist.

Posted in Mind, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Does DNA Have Telepathic Properties?

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2009

Dna47_3_2DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn’t be able to. Explanation: None, at least not yet.

Scientists are reporting evidence that contrary to our current beliefs about what is possible, intact double-stranded DNA has the “amazing” ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. Somehow they are able to identify one another, and the tiny bits of genetic material tend to congregate with similar DNA. The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.

Even so, the research published in ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry B, shows very clearly that homology recognition between sequences of several hundred nucleotides occurs without physical contact or presence of proteins. Double helixes of DNA can recognize matching molecules from a distance and then gather together, all seemingly without help from any other molecules or chemical signals.

In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences. No one knows how individual DNA strands could possibly be communicating in this way, yet somehow they do. The “telepathic” effect is a source of wonder and amazement for scientists.

via Does DNA Have Telepathic Properties?-A Galaxy Insight.

Posted in Biology, Physics | Leave a Comment »


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