Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for January 12th, 2013

Secret and Lies of the Bailout

Posted by Anonymous on January 12, 2013

It has been four long winters since the federal government, in the hulking, shaven-skulled, Alien Nation-esque form of then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, committed $700 billion in taxpayer money to rescue Wall Street from its own chicanery and greed. To listen to the bankers and their allies in Washington tell it, you’d think the bailout was the best thing to hit the American economy since the invention of the assembly line. Not only did it prevent another Great Depression, we’ve been told, but the money has all been paid back, and the government even made a profit. No harm, no foul – right?

Wrong.

It was all a lie – one of the biggest and most elaborate falsehoods ever sold to the American people. We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you – to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. The result is one of those deals where one wrong decision early on blossoms into a lush nightmare of unintended consequences. We thought we were just letting a friend crash at the house for a few days; we ended up with a family of hillbillies who moved in forever, sleeping nine to a bed and building a meth lab on the front lawn.

… Read the rest:

http://m.rollingstone.com/?redirurl=/politics/news/secret-and-lies-of-the-bailout-20130104&seenSplash=1

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

DNA pioneer James Watson takes aim at cancer establishments

Posted by Anonymous on January 12, 2013

… “Everyone thought antioxidants were great,” he said. “But I’m saying they can prevent us from killing cancer cells.”

‘ANTI-ANTIOXIDANTS’

Research backs him up. A number of studies have shown that taking antioxidants such as vitamin E do not reduce the risk of cancer but can actually increase it, and can even shorten life. But drugs that block antioxidants – “anti-antioxidants” – might make even existing cancer drugs more effective.

Anything that keeps cancer cells full of oxygen radicals “is likely an important component of any effective treatment,” said cancer biologist Robert Benezra of Sloan-Kettering.

Watson’s anti-antioxidant stance includes one historical irony. The first high-profile proponent of eating lots of antioxidants (specifically, vitamin C) was biochemist Linus Pauling, who died in 1994 at age 93. Watson and his lab mate, Francis Crick, famously beat Pauling to the discovery of the double helix in 1953.

One elusive but promising target, Watson said, is a protein in cells called Myc. It controls more than 1,000 other molecules inside cells, including many involved in cancer. Studies suggest that turning off Myc causes cancer cells to self-destruct in a process called apoptosis.

“The notion that targeting Myc will cure cancer has been around for a long time,” said cancer biologist Hans-Guido Wendel of Sloan-Kettering. “Blocking production of Myc is an interesting line of investigation. I think there’s promise in that.”

Targeting Myc, however, has been a backwater of drug development. “Personalized medicine” that targets a patient’s specific cancer-causing mutation attracts the lion’s share of research dollars.

“The biggest obstacle” to a true war against cancer, Watson wrote, may be “the inherently conservative nature of today’s cancer research establishments.” As long as that’s so, “curing cancer will always be 10 or 20 years away.”

via DNA pioneer James Watson takes aim at cancer establishments | Reuters.

Oh great. I’ve been eating so much vitamin C every day… for years now…

Posted in Biology, Health | 2 Comments »

Metal robot metal band

Posted by Anonymous on January 12, 2013


Did you ever wonder what Danny Carey would sound like if he had 4 arms? How about if Angus Young had 78 fingers? Imagine what Robert Trujillo would sound like if he was actually made of metal? Well, wonder no more, meatbags. Compressorhead is the worlds heaviest metal band. Stickboy, fingers, and bones are guaranteed to shake and rattle the world of meatbag music. Stickboy (drums) was created to exacting specifications. 4 arms, 2 legs, 1 head, no brain. he plays a Pearl 14 piece kit with double kick. stickboy junior, the bastard child of an unknown mother takes control of the hihat shuffle. inception date 2007 Fingers (guitar) joined stickboy in 2009 and brings 78 purpose built fingers, enough to play the entire fret board and pluck.
Bones (bass) is the highest precision bass player in known existence, and the youngest member of the band. inception date 2012.
Standaside meatbags. Oil is thicker than blood.

via – Compresserhead

Here’s a video of the band before they were joined by Bones, showing a better view of Fingers at work.

Posted in - Video, Music | Leave a Comment »

‘Doomsday’ asteroid Apophis more massive than first thought

Posted by Anonymous on January 12, 2013

asteroid-apophis-herschel.jpg

Astronomers following the so-called doomsday asteroid Apophis, which will be whizzing past Earth on Thursday morning, have found the rock is much larger than had previously been assumed. Since the asteroid could hit Earth in 2036, that’s a problem.

The asteroid, named after an Egyptian god of chaos, darkness and destruction, had been thought to be around 885 feet (270 meters) wide, plus or minus a couple of hundred feet (60 meters). But as Apophis approached last weekend, astronomers at the Herschel Space Observatory took new observations and have concluded that astronomers have seriously underestimated both its size and its mass.

“The 20 per cent increase in diameter, from 270 to 325m, translates into a 75 per cent increase in our estimates of the asteroid’s volume or mass,” said Thomas Müller of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.

“These numbers are first estimates based on the Herschel measurements alone, and other ongoing ground-based campaigns might produce additional pieces of information which will allow us to improve our results.”

In addition, the asteroid has a much different reflectivity, or albedo, than previously thought; 0.23 rather than the previous estimates of 0.33. This changes astronomer’s calculations of the Yarkovsky effect, or how the Sun’s heating and cooling influence will alter the asteroid’s progress in orbit.

Apophis caused alarm on Christmas Eve 2004 after a report that it had a 2.7 per cent chance of hitting Earth in 2029, and even if it missed, the encounter could set it up for another strike in 2036. The asteroid topped the Torino Scale of risk, briefly reaching level four out of 10 – where zero is no threat and 10 is WE’RE DOOMED!

After checking the data and weeding out the false reports, Apophis was downgraded to a level one threat and is currently expected to whizz past on Friday, April 13, 2029 at a distance of about 36,000 kilometers, just inside the orbit of our geostationary satellites. But there’s a kicker.

If the asteroid passes through a specific gravitational zone, it will perturb its progress just enough to make sure that it will most likely hit the Earth on April 13, 2036. According to Neil deGrasse Tyson, geek icon and director of the Hayden Planetarium, if it passes through the center of the gravitational “keyhole” it’ll hit the Pacific off Santa Monica, California and “sandblast the Western seaboard” with the resulting wave of tsunamis. …

via ‘Doomsday’ asteroid Apophis more massive than first thought • The Register.

And then there’s this… no need to abandon California just yet.

NASA scientists at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., effectively have ruled out the possibility the asteroid Apophis will impact Earth during a close flyby in 2036. The scientists used updated information obtained by NASA-supported telescopes in 2011 and 2012, as well as new data from the time leading up to Apophis’ distant Earth flyby yesterday (Jan. 9).

Discovered in 2004, the asteroid, which is the size of three-and-a-half football fields, gathered the immediate attention of space scientists and the media when initial calculations of its orbit indicated a 2.7 percent possibility of an Earth impact during a close flyby in 2029. Data discovered during a search of old astronomical images provided the additional information required to rule out the 2029 impact scenario, but a remote possibility of one in 2036 remained – until yesterday.

“With the new data provided by the Magdalena Ridge [New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology] and the Pan-STARRS [Univ. of Hawaii] optical observatories, along with very recent data provided by the Goldstone Solar System Radar, we have effectively ruled out the possibility of an Earth impact by Apophis in 2036,” said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. “The impact odds as they stand now are less than one in a million, which makes us comfortable saying we can effectively rule out an Earth impact in 2036. Our interest in asteroid Apophis will essentially be for its scientific interest for the foreseeable future.”

via NASA

Posted in Space, Survival | Leave a Comment »

Perspective: the Biggest Stars in the Universe… so far

Posted by Anonymous on January 12, 2013

The Biggest Stars in the Universe – YouTube.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

Centralia Mine Fire, at 50, Still Burns With Meaning

Posted by Anonymous on January 12, 2013

Hours after plunging into the Earth, Todd Domboski stares at the abyss that briefly swallowed him—a hole swirling with toxic gases from an underground mine fire.

On February 14, 1981, 12-year-old Domboski sank into a cave-in that ruptured the soil in his grandmother’s backyard in Centralia, Pennsylvania, where an abandoned coal mine had smoldered for 19 years.

The Centralia blaze, still burning more than 50 years after it began, ranks as the worst mine fire in the United States. But it is by no means the only one. More than 200 underground and surface coal fires are burning in 14 states, according to the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

And with worldwide demand for coal surging, especially in industrializing nations such as India and China, mine fires have emerged as a global environmental and public health threat. Thousands of coal fires rage on every continent but Antarctica, endangering nearby communities. The blazes spew toxic substances such as benzene, hydrogen sulfide, mercury, and arsenic, as well as greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide. (See related story: “Seeking a Safer Future for Electricity’s Coal Ash Waste.”)

In Centralia, Domboski survived his 45-second ordeal by grabbing onto tree roots. He screamed for help until his cousin ran to his aid, reached into the void, and hoisted him out.

Many Centralia residents had long feared a calamity like the one that nearly unfolded that Valentine’s Day. Four years earlier, Domboski’s father had told a reporter, “I guess some kid will have to get killed by the gas or by falling in one of these steamy holes before anyone will call it an emergency.”

—Joan Quigley

via Pictures: Centralia Mine Fire, at 50, Still Burns With Meaning.

Posted in - Video, Earth | Leave a Comment »

U.S. Cities Relying on Precog Software to Predict Murder

Posted by Anonymous on January 12, 2013

Who needs the freaky precogs of Minority Report to predict if someone’s likely to commit murder when you have an algorithm that can do it for you?

New crime-prediction software used in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and soon to be rolled out in the nation’s capital too, promises to reduce the homicide rate by predicting which prison parolees are likely to commit murder and therefore receive more stringent supervision.

The software aims to replace the judgments parole officers already make based on a parolee’s criminal record and is currently being used in Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Richard Berk, a criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania who developed the algorithm, claims it will reduce the murder rate and other crimes and could help courts set bail amounts as well as sentencing in the future.

“When a person goes on probation or parole they are supervised by an officer. The question that officer has to answer is ‘what level of supervision do you provide?’” Berk told ABC News. The software simply replaces that kind of ad hoc decision-making that officers already do, he says.

To create the software, researchers assembled a dataset of more than 60,000 crimes, including homicides, then wrote an algorithm to find the people behind the crimes who were more likely to commit murder when paroled or put on probation. Berk claims the software could identify eight future murderers out of 100.

The software parses about two dozen variables, including criminal record and geographic location. The type of crime and the age at which it was committed, however, turned out to be two of the most predictive variables.

“People assume that if someone murdered then they will murder in the future,” Berk told the news outlet. “But what really matters is what that person did as a young individual. If they committed armed robbery at age 14 that’s a good predictor. If they committed the same crime at age 30, that doesn’t predict very much.” …

via U.S. Cities Relying on Precog Software to Predict Murder | Threat Level | Wired.com.

Posted in Crime, Technology | Leave a Comment »

A rock is a clock: Physicist uses matter to tell time

Posted by Anonymous on January 12, 2013

Ever since he was a kid growing up in Germany, Holger Müller has been asking himself a fundamental question: What is time?

That question has now led Müller, today an assistant professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, to a fundamentally new way of measuring time.

Taking advantage of the fact that, in nature, matter can be both a particle and a wave, he has discovered a way to tell time by counting the oscillations of a matter wave. A matter wave’s frequency is 10 billion times higher than that of visible light.

“A rock is a clock, so to speak,” Müller said.

In a paper appearing in the Jan. 11 issue of Science, Müller and his UC Berkeley colleagues describe how to tell time using only the matter wave of a cesium atom. He refers to his method as a Compton clock because it is based on the so-called Compton frequency of a matter wave.

“When I was very young and reading science books, I always wondered why there was so little explanation of what time is,” said Müller, who is also a guest scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Since then, I’ve often asked myself, ‘What is the simplest thing that can measure time, the simplest system that feels the passage of time?’ Now we have an upper limit: one single massive particle is enough.”

While Müller’s Compton clock is still 100 million times less precise than today’s best atomic clocks, which employ aluminum ions, improvements in the technique could boost its precision to that of atomic clocks, including the cesium clocks now used to define the second, he said.

“This is a beautiful experiment and cleverly designed, but it is going to be controversial and hotly debated,” said John Close, a quantum physicist at The Australian National University in Canberra. “The question is, ‘Is the Compton frequency of atoms a clock or not a clock?’ Holger’s point is now made. It is a clock. I’ve made one, it works.”

Müller welcomes debate, since his experiment deals with a basic concept of quantum mechanics — the wave-particle duality of matter — that has befuddled students for nearly 90 years.

“We are talking about some really fundamental ideas,” Close said. “The discussion will create a deeper understanding of quantum physics.”

Müller can also turn the technique around to use time to measure mass. The reference mass today is a platinum-iridium cylinder defined as weighing one kilogram and kept under lock and key in a vault in France, with precise copies sparingly dispersed around the world. Using Müller’s matter wave technique provides a new way for researchers to build their own kilogram reference.

De Broglie’s “crazy” idea

The idea that matter can be viewed as a wave was the subject of the 1924 Ph.D. thesis by Louis de Broglie, who took Albert Einstein’s idea that mass and energy are equivalent (E=mc2) and combined it with Ernst Planck’s idea that every energy is associated with a frequency. De Broglie’s idea that matter can act as a wave was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1929.

Using matter as a clock, however, seemed far-fetched because the frequency of the wave, called the Compton, or de Broglie, frequency, might be unobservable. And even if it could be seen, the oscillations would be too fast to measure.

Müller, however, found a way two years ago to use matter waves to confirm Einstein’s gravitational redshift — that is, that time slows down in a gravitational field. To do this, he built an atom interferometer that treats atoms as waves and measures their interference.

“At that time, I thought that this very, very specialized application of matter waves as clocks was it,” Müller said. “When you make a grandfather clock, there is a pendulum and a clockwork that counts the pendulum oscillations. So you need something that swings and a clockwork to make a clock. There was no way to make a clockwork for matter waves, because their oscillation frequency is 10 billion times higher than even the oscillations of visible light.”

One morning last year, however, he realized that he might be able to combine two well-known techniques to create such a clockwork and explicitly demonstrate that the Compton frequency of a single particle is, in fact, useful as a reference for a clock. In relativity, time slows down for moving objects, so that a twin who flies off to a distant star and returns will be younger than the twin who stayed behind. This is the so-called twin paradox.

Similarly, a cesium atom that moves away and then returns is younger than one that stands still. As a result, the moving cesium matter wave will have oscillated fewer times. The difference frequency, which would be around 100,000 fewer oscillations per second out of 10 million billion billion oscillations (3 x 1025 for a cesium atom), might be measurable.

In the lab, Müller showed that he could measure this difference by allowing the matter waves of the fixed and moving cesium atoms to interfere in an atom interferometer. The motion was caused by bouncing photons from a laser off the cesium atoms. Using an optical frequency comb, he synchronized the laser beam in the interferometer with the difference frequency between the matter waves so that all frequencies were referenced solely to the matter wave itself.

via A rock is a clock: Physicist uses matter to tell time.

Posted in Physics | Leave a Comment »

Hearing loss partially reversed in noise-damaged ears of mice

Posted by Anonymous on January 12, 2013

http://www.trbimg.com/img-50ef2bc6/turbine/la-heb-hearing-loss-partially-reversed-in-nois-001/600Drug treatment caused regeneration of sound-sensing cells in the inner ears of noise-exposed mice. On the left, damaged cells not treated with the drug. On the right, cells that were treated. Hair cells are shown in green. (Kunio Mizutari et al. / Neuron)

Anyone who’s gone to too many rock concerts or worked with loud machinery for too long or listened to too many kazillion-decibel advertisements at a movie theater may eventually pay the price: hearing loss caused by damage to tiny, sound-transmitting cells in the inner ear. Researchers now report they can regenerate some of these crucial “hair cells” in the inner ears of mice and restore noise-induced damage to some extent. It’s something that hearing scientists have been hoping for ages though we will avoid using the term “holy grail” . The experiments, by Albert Edge of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues, were published in the Jan. 10 issue of the journal Neuron. Our ability to hear goes this way: Sound waves enter the gristly outer ear, travel down the ear canal and then buffet up against the eardrum, causing the drum to vibrate and jostle three bones in the so-called middle ear: the hammer, anvil and stirrup. The stirrup, in turn, presses against a membrane that divides the middle ear from the fluid-filled inner ear. The fluid in the inner ear then moves, causing arrays of tiny sensory cells called hair cells to wave about and send signals to the sound-processing parts of the brain. Based on the frequency of a given sound, hair cells at different points along the inner ear will activate. Our brains interpret the signals from those different points in the inner ear as different frequencies of sound. Loud noises, among other noxious assaults, can damage the fragile hair cells. That’s why habitual exposure to loud noise or one-off insults such as close-range gunshots or explosions can damage our hearing. The cells, once damaged, don’t regenerate – not in mammals, anyway. They do in fish and birds. But Edge’s team showed they could coax some hair cells to do so in adult mice if they were treated with a certain drug. The drug, which goes by the natty NAME of LY41175, allows other cells in the inner ear to change into hair cells. Normally, these cells are inhibited from making the switch. LY41175 releases that inhibition by interfering with the activity of a protein called Notch. In mice with noise damage, scientists found putting the drug into the middle ear and allowing it to diffuse into the inner ear increased numbers of hair cells in parts of the inner ear and, in step with that, increased the rodents ability to detect sounds that matched up to those parts of the inner ear. The effects lasted for at least three months, the longest period of time that the scientists tested. Want to know more? From L.A.’s own House Research Institute, a primer on how hearing works, how to protect your ears from noise damage and types of hearing loss. Lots of information about hearing and hearing loss at the website of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Assn.

via Hearing loss partially reversed in noise-damaged ears of mice – latimes.com.

This gives me new hope about life! I may not have to be a deaf musician in my old age after all. Where do we send our research donations to speed this up?

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

 
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