Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for February 17th, 2012

Michael Palin’s journey across Africa

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012

Posted in Survival | Leave a Comment »

Food Project Proposes Matrix-Style Vertical Chicken Farms

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012

Architecture student André Ford has proposed a new system for the mass production of chickens that removes the birds’ cerebral cortex so that they don’t experience the horrors of being packed together tightly in vertical farms.Each year, the United Kingdom raises and kills around 800 million broiler chickens for their meat. These creatures are grown in vast sheds with no natural light over the course of six to seven weeks. They are bred to grow particularly quickly and often die because their hearts and lungs cannot keep up with their body’s rapid growth.

Philosopher Paul Thompson from Purdue University has suggested “The Blind Chicken Solution.” He argues that chickens blinded by “accident” have been developed into a strain of laboratory chickens that don’t mind being crowded together as much as normal chickens do. As a result, he argues, we should consider using blind chickens in food production as a solution to the problem of overcrowding in the poultry industry. He argues that it would be more humane to have blind chickens than ones that can see.

But Ford goes a step further and proposes a “Headless Chicken Solution.” This would involve removing the cerebral cortex of the chicken to inhibit its sensory perceptions so that it could be produced in more densely packed conditions without the associated distress. The brain stem for the chicken would be kept intact so that the homeostatic functions continue to operate, allowing it to grow.

Ford proposes this solution for two reasons: To meet the rising demand for meat, particularly poultry, and to improve the welfare of the chickens by desensitizing them to the unpleasant reality of their existence.

After this “desensitization,” the chickens could then be stacked into huge urban farms with around 1,000 chickens hooked up to large vertical frames — a little like the network of pods the humans are connected to in The Matrix. The feet of the chickens would also be removed in order to pack more in. There could be dozens of these frames in the vertical farming system, which Ford refers to as the Centre for Unconscious Farming. Food, water and air would be delivered via a network of tubes and excrement would be removed in the same way. This technique could achieve a density of around 11.7 chickens per cubic meter instead of the current 3.2 chickens achieved in broiler houses.

A challenge for Ford’s system would be the lack of muscular stimulation. However, Ford proposes using electric shocks similar to that used in other lab meat experiments.

Ford argues that his solution is no more shocking than existing food-production techniques. “The realities of the existing systems of production are just as shocking,” he told Wired.co.uk, “but they are hidden behind the sentimental guise of traditional farming scenes that we as consumers hold in our minds and see on our food packaging.”

via Food Project Proposes Matrix-Style Vertical Chicken Farms | Underwire | Wired.com.

Posted in Food, Technology | 7 Comments »

Swiss ‘janitor’ satellite to sweep up space junk

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012

Swiss scientists plan to launch a shoebox-sized satellite with jellyfish-like tentacles to sweep up space junk as early as 2016.

The $11 million satellite, called CleanSpace One, would chase down space junk and drag it out of orbit, burning up during atmospheric re-entry in the process. Swiss space scientists hope this will be the first of a fleet of “janitor” satellites.

“We want to offer and sell a whole family of ready-made systems, designed as sustainably as possible, that are able to de-orbit several different kinds of satellites,” said Volker Gass, director of the Swiss Space Center at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne.

The cloud of debris from dead or discarded spacecraft circling the Earth poses a serious threat to active satellites, like those used for GPS or telecommunications, as well as to the six astronauts aboard the International Space Station. NASA estimates that more than 6000 tonnes of space junk zip around the planet at speeds of about 28,000 kilometres per hour. Even a paint chip can do damage at such speeds.

The danger was highlighted in 2009 when two intact spacecraft, the Russian Cosmos satellite and the US communications satellite Iridium-33, collided head-on, leaving behind a trail of hundreds of pieces of debris. It came up again earlier this year, when the space station had to shift to a higher orbit to dodge a piece of shrapnel from a dead Chinese satellite that was deliberately destroyed in 2007.

Some scientists fear that the space junk problem is reaching a critical tipping point, where the amount of debris is growing faster than individual pieces can fall out of the sky. Scientists have suggested several novel ways to cope, including a net that could guide debris downward to its destruction, or equipping future satellites with solar sails so they can de-orbit themselves when their working lives are over.

CleanSpace One may be the first dedicated clean-up crew to get off the ground. The spacecraft is designed to rendezvous with one of two shoebox-sized dead satellites – either SwissCube, which launched in 2009, or TIsat, which launched in 2010.

Once it has caught up with its quarry, CleanSpace One will deploy grippers inspired by jellyfish or sea anemones to embrace the spinning target. Then it will power its engines to steer itself on a suicide dive into Earth’s atmosphere.

International space law may keep the scheme from being widely useful, though. Legal issues about who owns space junk makes it difficult for one nation’s space agency to clean up another nation’s trash, so for now, CleanSpace One’s only available targets are also Swiss.

via Short Sharp Science: Swiss ‘janitor’ satellite to sweep up space junk.

This is scary if you believe there are secretly nukes already in space, ready to launch. What if the janitor grabs one of those and pulls it down? I suppose space-based nuclear platforms would have defenses to disable any incoming janitors.  Star wars.

Posted in Space, Technology, War | Leave a Comment »

Yale: Error correction brings quantum computing closer to reality

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012

At Yale, quantum computing is a (qu)bit closer to realityPhysicists at Yale University have taken another significant step in the development of quantum computing, a new frontier in computing that promises exponentially faster information processing than the most sophisticated computers of today.

In research published online this month in the journal Nature, the Yale physicists demonstrate the most basic form of quantum error correction — a way to compensate for quantum computing’s intrinsic susceptibility to errors. Developing technology to correct these errors on the fly is a necessary step for fully realizing quantum computers.

“Without error correction, you couldn’t make a quantum computer that had an exponential speed-up,” said Matthew Reed, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in physics at Yale who is the paper’s first author. “Small errors would otherwise inexorably build up and cause the computation to fail.”

Quantum computers use quantum bits (“qubits”) to represent information. These qubits can take many forms, such as trapped ions or molecules. At Yale, researchers made their qubits from “artificial” atoms using superconducting circuits. Any qubit must be able to take either of two states, “0” or “1”, or both states simultaneously. For quantum computers to work, they must correctly recognize and interpret these qubit states. But qubits are prone to accidental changes of state —i.e., errors — confounding interpretation.

For the first time, the Yale team has demonstrated quantum error correction in a solid-state system, an electronic device analogous to a computer chip. The team developed a technique for identifying a qubit’s original state, detecting changes and reversing them when necessary. …

via At Yale, quantum computing is a (qu)bit closer to reality.

Posted in Physics, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Department Of Homeland Security Tells Congress Why It’s Monitoring Facebook, Twitter, Blogs

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012

BY Neal UngerleiderAt a Congressional hearing this morning that veered into contentious arguments and cringe-worthy moments, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spilled the beans on their social media monitoring project.

DHS Chief Privacy Office Mary Ellen Callahan and Director of Operations Coordination and Planning Richard Chavez appeared to be deliberately stonewalling Congress on the depth, ubiquity, goals, and technical capabilities of the agency’s social media surveillance. At other times, they appeared to be themselves unsure about their own project’s ultimate goals and uses. But one thing is for sure: If you’re the first person to tweet about a news story, or if you’re a community activist who makes public Facebook posts–DHS will have your personal information.

The hearing, which was held by the Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Intelligence headed by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), was highly unusual. Hacktivist collective Anonymous (or at least the @AnonyOps Twitter feed) sent a sympathizer to the visitor gallery to liveblog the proceedings under the #spyback hashtag.

Interactions between the DHS officials and representatives were often strained–both Chavez and Callahan were scolded and chastised by Representatives from both parties. Reps. Billy Long (R-MO), Meehan, Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) all pointed out issues relating to what they variously saw as potential First Amendment violations, surveillance of citizens engaged in protected political speech, the fact that an outside contractor handles DHS’ social media monitoring, DHS’ seeming inability to separate news monitoring from disaster preparedness, and a massively unclear social media monitoring mandate on the DHS’ part.

Video footage of the hearing has already been made available on YouTube, and the written testimony of both DHS experts has been made publicly available. Privacy watchdog group EPIC also filed a formal disclosure to Congress on the results of a FOIA lawsuit. DHS appears to have also stonewalled EPIC regarding their social media monitoring project. The results are staggering.

According to testimony, the Homeland Security Department has outsourced their own social media monitoring program to an outside contractor, defense giant General Dynamics. General Dynamics was the sole party to the original DHS contract, which was not offered to any outside parties–and Chavez was caught misleading the Committee about General Dyamics’ sole status. …

via Department Of Homeland Security Tells Congress Why It’s Monitoring Facebook, Twitter, Blogs | Fast Company.

Posted in Politics, Technology | 1 Comment »

The Underwear Bomber Case

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012

Tony Muga – Now that the Underwear Bomber trial is over, the corporate controlled mainstream media has once again given a version of the story (or rather left parts out altogether) that not only stands in stark contrast to Kurt Haskell’s testimony, but is so incredibly lacking of pertinent facts that it is becoming painfully clear that a systematic effort is underway to blur the real circumstances of the case. …

Kurt’s testimony tells a whole different story, in it he points out that:

1. “While I sat there, I witnessed Umar dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt, being escorted around security by a man in a tan suit who spoke perfect American English and who aided Umar in boarding without a passport. The airline gate worker initially refused Umar boarding until the man in the tan suit intervened”

2. “We were then taken into the terminal with our unchecked carry on bags. Again, there was no concern for our safety even though Umar told the officers that there was another bomb on board as he exited the plane. I wondered why nobody was concerned about our safety, accomplices or other bombs and the lack of concern worried me greatly. I immediately told the FBI my story in order to help catch the accomplice I had seen in Amsterdam. It soon became obvious that the FBI wasn’t interested in what I had to say, which upset me further.”

3. “For one month the government refused to admit the existence of the man in the tan suit before changing course and admitting his existence in an ABC News article on January 22, 2010. That was the last time the government talked about this man. The video that would prove the truth of my account has never been released. I continue to be emotional upset that the video has not been released. The Dutch police, meanwhile, in this article (show article), also confirmed that Umar did not show his passport in Amsterdam which also meant that he didn’t go through security as both are in the same line in Amsterdam.”

4.“ I became further saddened from this case, when Patrick Kennedy of the State Department during Congressional hearings, admitted that Umar was a known terrorist, was being followed, and the U.S. allowed him into the U.S. so that it could catch Umar’s accomplices. I was once again shocked and saddened when Michael Leiter of the National Counter terrorism Center admitted during these same hearings that intentionally letting terrorists into the U.S. was a frequent practice of the U.S. Government. I cannot fully explain my sadness, disappointment and fear when I realized that my government allowed an attack on me intentionally.”

5.“During this time, I questioned if my country intentionally put a known terrorist onto my flight with a live bomb. I had many sleepless nights over this issue. My answer came shortly thereafter. In late 2010, the FBI admitted to giving out intentionally defective bombs to the Portland Christmas Tree Bomber,the Wrigley Field Bomber and several others. Further, Mr. Chambers was quoted in the Free Press on January 11, 2011 when he indicated that the government’s own explosives experts had indicated that Umar’s bomb was impossibly defective. I wondered how that could be. Certainly, I thought, Al Qaeda wouldn’t go through all of the trouble to plan such an attack only to provide the terrorist with an impossibly defective bomb.”

6.“I was greatly disappointed by the prosecution’s request to block evidence from Mr. Chambers ‘as it could then be able to be obtained by third parties, who could use it in a civil suit against the government’. It really bothered me that the government apparently was admitting to wrongdoing of some kind as it admitted that it was concerned it would be sued. It further upset me to know that the government was putting its own interests ahead of those of the passengers.”

7.“When I attended the jury selection hearings, I questioned why versions of the same two questions kept coming up, those being: Do you think you’ll be able to tell whether something is actually a bomb? and
 Do you realize that sometimes the media doesn’t always tell the truth?”

8.“When Umar listed me as his only witness, I was happy to testify, not on his behalf, but on behalf of the truth. I never expected to testify, as my eyewitness account would have been too damaging to the myth that the government and media are putting forward. A mere 5 days after I was announced as a witness, there was an inexplicable guilty plea which exasperated me as I no longer would be testifying.”

9.“In closing I will just say that regardless of how the media and government try to shape the public perception of this case, I am convinced that Umar was given an intentionally defective bomb by a U.S. Government agent and placed on our flight without showing a passport or going through security, to stage a false terrorist attack to be used to implement various government policies.” …

As Umar begins his life sentence and the Underwear Bomber case is relegated to the dusty shelf of history’s past, there are many questions that remain unanswered. Perhaps the most important one of all is: how long before the American public realizes that mainstream media is selling water from a poisoned the well?

via Sin Of Omission: Why Is ABC News Omitting Critical Details of the Underwear Bomber Case? :. | info wars


Posted in Crime, Politics | Leave a Comment »

UC Davis pays $1.35M to settle Title IX case

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012

The University of California, Davis has agreed to pay more than $1.3 million to attorneys representing three women who had filed gender discrimination claims because the campus did not offer a women’s wrestling team, officials said Thursday.

The settlement came after a federal judge in Sacramento ruled on a broader question in August and found that the university had violated Title IX, the federal law passed in 1972 that requires equal athletic opportunities for men and women.

U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell rejected the women’s individual discrimination claims but found that the university had reduced athletic opportunities for all women during the time the plaintiffs were enrolled.

Lauren Mancuso, Arezou Mansourian and Christine Wing-Si Ng sued in 2003 after the university eliminated more than 60 opportunities for women to participate in athletics between the 1998-99 and 2004-05 academic years. Most of the missed opportunities were from the loss of junior varsity teams for women’s water polo and women’s lacrosse.

The three women wrestled competitively in high school and enrolled at Davis, which is just west of Sacramento, with hopes of making the varsity wrestling squad. But the university said they had to compete against men of the same weight class to make the team.

At the time, no four-year California colleges had an all-women’s intercollegiate wrestling team, and Damrell noted that the women either declined to try out for the men’s squad or could not make the cut.

The Title IX violation came in response to the lost opportunities in established women’s sports.

Even though the judge found the women had not been discriminated against, lawyers representing the plaintiffs called the settlement a victory for women in campus athletics.

Noreen Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates, one of the attorneys representing the former UC Davis students, called the settlement “the final chapter in a precedent-setting Title IX case.”

The lawsuit is among many filed nationally since federal law banned sex discrimination in athletic programs. Title IX has led to complaints and lawsuits by and against coaches and other university employees, including four UC Davis employees who were dismissed from the wrestlers’ lawsuit.

Lawyers representing the three women said the university previously created a fund that has given more than $70,000 in grants to female athletes, and increased the number of women participating in campus athletics. They said the students also won a procedural battle with a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals during the course of the lawsuit. …

via UC Davis pays $1.35M to settle Title IX case.

Bad timing. Universities should be getting more state support when they are getting less, and student fees at UC Davis are  “hella high.”

Posted in Education, Money, Sports | Leave a Comment »

Report: 2 ICE officers killed, 1 wounded at federal office building in Long Beach

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012

Three immigration officers were involved in a shootout at the Long Beach federal building on Thursday evening, police said.

Two officers were pronounced dead at the scene and the third, reportedly shot in the upper torso, was sent to a nearby hospital, according to aerial communications from Long Beach police, NBCLosAngeles.com reported.

One of the agents is believed to be the suspected gunman, police said, but suspect’s condition was unknown.

A Long Beach police official told the Associated Press that the shooter killed one person, wounded another with a shot to the stomach, and then was killed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the case.

The third officer is being treated at St. Mary’s Medical Center, and his vital signs were positive, said Francine Marlenee, speaking on behalf of the hospital.

The incident occurred shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday on the seventh floor of the building located on the city’s oceanfront at 501 W. Ocean Blvd., police said.

Initial reports described two people involved in the shootout, including a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer.

More than a dozen police vehicles and at least two fire trucks lined the sidewalks surrounding the heavily secured building. …

via U.S. News – Report: 2 ICE officers killed, 1 wounded at federal office building in Long Beach.

A confrontation between law enforcement agents erupted in gunfire Thursday evening at the federal building in Long Beach, leaving two dead and one seriously injured, authorities said.

The incident involved agents from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency in the Glenn M. Anderson Federal Building along the city’s oceanfront.

The shooter is believed to have opened fire on his supervisor over an unspecified dispute, law enforcement authorities told The Times.

As the supervisor lay wounded, another agent jumped in and tried to subdue the gunman. Another round of gunfire broke out, authorties said.

Officials were investigating whether the gunman turned his weapon on himself, the sources said. The extent of any wounds he may have suffered was not immediately clear.

via LA Times

Posted in Crime, Strange | Leave a Comment »

Review: Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012

By Dan Bacalzo Feb 17, 2012

William Shatner displays a curious mix of self-deprecation and self-aggrandizement in Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It, his entertaining one-man show currently playing a limited Broadway engagement at The Music Box before launching a brief national tour. The actor demonstrates a willingness to laugh at himself, thereby allowing the audience to laugh along with him, while still recognizing the value of his varied and quite impressive career.

Shatner is, of course, best known as Captain Kirk from the original Star Trek series, and the movie franchise that followed. Several of his stories touch upon this fact, whether it’s a ribald comment made by fellow Star Trek cast member George Takei at Shatner’s Comedy Central roast to Shatner’s interactions with NASA and the space program. However, the actor doesn’t provide the kind of tell-all insider dish about the show and its cast that may be hoped for by some audience members.

The solo piece is structured as a collection of anecdotes, loosely strung together. … more often than not, the performer scores with a genuinely funny tale.

He touches upon his career highlights, including his Emmy-winning role as Denny Crane on both Boston Legal and The Practice. But it’s often the lesser-known details of his life and career that provide some of the more interesting stories. Among these are the early influences that burlesque comedians had on his understanding of comedy; understudying — and having to go on for — Christopher Plummer in the title role of Shakespeare’s Henry V; and starring in the critically panned but somehow long-running Broadway play, The World of Suzie Wong.

… . But while he shares a number of details about his life, he refrains from getting overly personal. He does, however, maintain a conversational tone throughout the evening, which sets the audience at ease.

Accompanying his tales are video clips and still photographs that are projected onto a large, circular screen that dominates Edward Pierce’s spare scenic design. …

via Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It – Reviews – Feb 17, 2012.

“Near the top of the show he recalls being asked to open a televised tribute to George Lucas. A dubious Mr. Shatner wondered, would Mr. Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars,” get the joke? On the giant circular screen that dominates the set we are shown marked evidence that he did not, at least at first. When Mr. Shatner is introduced as M.C., Mr. Lucas and others are shown looking dumbfounded or disgusted.”

via NYTimes

Still the best Kirk there was, but I like the idea that there will be many more, and not just Chris Pine. Kirk should be a character like James Bond who keeps having untold adventures pop up for decades.


Posted in Art, Popular Culture, Science Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Slow walking ‘predicts dementia’

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012

The speed someone walks may predict the likelihood of developing dementia later in life, according to researchers in the US.

They also told a conference that grip strength in middle-age was linked to the chance of a stroke.

The scientists said more studies were needed to understand what was happening.

Experts said the findings raised important questions, but more research was needed.

Suggestions of a link between slow walking speed and poor health have been made before.

A study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2009, said there was a “strong association” between slow walking speed and death from heart attacks and other heart problems. A Journal of the American Medical Association study suggested a link between walking faster over the age of 65 and a longer life.

Dr Erica Camargo, who conducted the latest study at the Boston Medical Centre, said: “While frailty and lower physical performance in elderly people have been associated with an increased risk of dementia, we weren’t sure until now how it impacted people of middle age.”

Brain scans, walking speed and grip strength were recorded for 2,410 people who were, on average, 62 years old.

Results presented at the Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting said that 11 years later, 34 people had developed dementia and 79 had had a stroke.

The researchers said slower walking speeds were linked to a higher risk of dementia and stronger grip with a lower risk of stroke.

Dr Camargo said: “These are basic office tests which can provide insight into risk of dementia and stroke and can be easily performed by a neurologist or general practitioner.

“Further research is needed to understand why this is happening and whether preclinical disease could cause slow walking and decreased strength.” …

via BBC News – Slow walking ‘predicts dementia’.

Posted in Biology, Health, Mind | Leave a Comment »


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